Angel City shows grit in first win of 2024

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Angel City grabbed three points on the road.

BRIDGEVIEW, IL. — Defender Madison Curry received stitches at halftime against the Chicago Red Stars. Despite that, she played the full 90 minutes as Angel City fought to the finish. Like Curry, Angel City beat the Red Stars by showing their potential and grit in various ways during a 1-0 win. 

Angel City asserted themselves in the opening 45 minutes, dictating play while holding 68.4 percent of possession. This control allowed them to create multiple promising opportunities.

One of the best looks came in the 14th minute when Curry timed a run well, cut inside, and played a cross to defender Jasmyne Spencer, who put a header on goal. However, Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher tipped the shot over for a corner kick.

Another solid look came in the 24th minute when forward Alyssa Thompson crossed the ball to forward Sydney Leroux, whose header missed the net wide. 

Moments of chaos caused by their early dominance in possession also helped them. Red Stars defender Tatumn Milazzo saved an own goal (which she kicked) off the goal line in the 32nd minute to keep the scoreline even. 

But then, in the 40th minute, forward Claire Emslie’s free kick fell in the box, and the ball found the back of the net via an own goal by Red Stars defender Maximiliane Rall. 1-0, Angel City. Defender Megan Reid was in the vicinity of the goal, but Rall’s touch went into the goal. 

Angel City was less assertive in the second half, conceding more of the ball. However, they held onto their lead to close out the 1-0 victory. The win was their first of the year, bringing their point total to four through four matches. 

We made it a point to come out with that mentality of, ‘let’s be ourselves, let’s be brave’ and we were able to achieve it,” said midfielder Rocky Rodriguez. “We dominated the first half. It was pretty clear. The second half was not as pretty, but we saw we have the capacity to play pretty but also grind it out.”

Angel City’s first half was arguably their most impressive of the season. They pinned the Red Stars in their defensive third and created chances. They showed their grit in their third straight road match, which was a piece Tweed felt they missed in their other games.

It’s a hard place to come and play. We were really brave,” Tweed said. “What we’ve been missing for the last three weeks is that gritty, ugly piece. That was pleasing.”

Unlike the first half, Angel City was less impressive in the second 45 minutes, one they had thrived in previously. But on Saturday, the Red Stars came out of halftime with the edge as they adjusted their press to disrupt Angel City. 

“We flipped it this week… We’ve got to watch it back again and look at the second half because it felt like we stopped playing,” Tweed said,”

Nonetheless, Angel City’s courage prevailed in a massive win away from home. Curry’s toughness with the stitches resembled the squad’s mentality, which shined on Saturday.

Also notable were midfielder Lily Nabet’s season debut, Reid’s season debut, defender Sarah Gorden’s starting with the captain’s armband for the first time in 2024, and Spencer’s 175 career regular-season appearances, among others. 

“Lily Nabet, from the day preseason started has just been absolutely incredible,” Tweed said. “She’s worked so hard. Everything that Lily gets she absolutely has earned herself. She’s fought day after day, performed day after day. That is what you’re looking for with your squad. You want those people.”

DiDi Haracic also made her 2024 debut. She started instead of the usual goalkeeper, Angelina Anderson, making one save and completing 59 of 66 accurate passes. Tweed said SeatGeek Stadium’s field is relatively slow, and Haracic served as a connector between the center backs when they needed to play extra passes out of the back.

“We are in a fortunate position that we have a group of goalkeepers who can all challenge each other. Whichever one is called upon is going to perform, and the others are their biggest support. DiDi stepped up tonight. Throughout this six-month process, she’s continued to train hard, continues to be a pro, and continued to push.”

Next, Angel City returns home to play the North Carolina Courage, the No. 1 team in the table. The match marks the continuation of a demanding early season schedule, during which Angel City played Bay FC in their first-ever game, the now fifth-place Orlando Pride, second-place Kansas City Current, and fourth-place Red Stars.