Saturday night featured more of the same for Angel City and the Washington Spirit. The Spirit had not lost at their home stadium, Audi Field, this season, whereas Angel City had lost a lot (one win in the last 11 games in all competitions).
Despite controlling possession, Angel City fell to the Spirit 2-1, extending their run to one win in 12 games and keeping the Spirit undefeated at home.
Angel City held possession for 57% of the game and attempted 19 shots and 11 corner kicks. However, they struggled to convert in the final third.
“If we’re looking at the data, it indicates a good performance from us,” said head coach Freya Coombe. “We’re just lacking that final execution in both 18-yard boxes. We need to continue to drive on and push in those areas.”
The empty scoreline for Angel City left the door open for the Spirit early, who scored goals 33 and 41 minutes into the game; forwards Ashley Hatch and Ashley Sanchez were the ones who put the ball in the net.
Angel City’s Mary Alice Vignola pulled one back in the first half’s stoppage time, but it proved too little as the Spirit shut them out in the second half. Her goal was the first of her NWSL career.
Throughout the game, Vignola was active in the attack by finding space in the box. She attempted three shots, one on goal.
As Vignola mixed in with the forwards, Coombe started a double pivot with midfielders Julie Ertz and Lily Nabet. Nabet earned the starting spot for the second consecutive game by playing aggressively in training.
Against the spirit, Nabet helped Angel City keep possession, which Coombe was content with.
“Lily [Nabet] has been aggressive in training and looking to have good possession of the ball. Also the ability for us to play through them in the middle of the park. She was able to demonstrate her ability to get on the ball and play. I’d still like to have us possess the ball a little bit more, but at the same time 57% compared to them is pretty good.”
Also encouraging was Sydney Leroux, who played in her second game of the season after being out for 311 days due to an Achilles injury. She entered 62 minutes into the game for forward Alyssa Thompson.
Leroux brought energy to the attack for Angel City but could not score like she did last game. Arguably her closest chance came in stoppage time when midfielder Clarisse Le Bihan crossed it to her from a free kick in an open position, but goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart saved her header.
“[Leroux] he gives an intensity to the way she plays. Her movements are good, we’re looking at the runs, arriving into spaces. We’re looking forward to having her on the pitch for longer and to be able to utilize her in those spaces where I think she can excel.”
Despite Vignola, Nabet, and Leroux’s encouraging performances, many Angel City fans are concerned with the team’s direction. They have now won one of their last 12 games and are No. 11 in the NWSL and last in their NWSL Challenge Cup group.
To make matters worse, forward Katie Johnson left the game 51 minutes into it when she suffered a non-contact injury. Coombe said the injury is to her knee and the medical staff will evaluate her over the next couple of days.
Moving forward, Vignola believes Angel City needs to keep their heads up and think they can win. She says they also need to work on the details and grit.
“We need to do the small things,” Vignola said. We need to do the small passes, we need to do the runs, we need to do the work, and we need to have the grit. It can’t be lackadaisical anymore. We need to do what we have to do and come out 110%.”
Angel City’s next chance to pick up three points is against the San Diego Wave on Saturday. They will travel to San Diego for the rivalry game.