LOS ANGELES — The NWSL Challenge Cup seemed like a lost hope for Angel City before Wednesday. They had picked up one point over three games, suffering a last-minute loss to the Portland Thorns in their last Challenge Cup game.
But on Wednesday, that all changed as Angel City took down their rivals, the San Diego Wave, 2-1.
And Angel City relied on their next players in line after saying bye to midfielder Julie Ertz and forward Alyssa Thompson on Monday because of international duty for the 2023 World Cup.
Midfielder Madison Hammond’s last start came against the OL Reign on May 27, appearing in only three minutes of game action since. But after receiving a start against the Wave, she made the most of the opportunity early on.
Two minutes into the game, forward Clarisse Le Bihan’s corner kick was kicked towards the net by defender Paige Nielsen. Then, Hammond headed the ball into the goal, giving Angel City the early lead.
“We work a lot on set pieces and have this phrase of, ‘scrappy equals happy,’ and thought back to the last game against San Diego when Paige [Nielsen] had a great goal against them, but also I was like ‘what if this deflects in a weird space?’, so I decided to gamble for it. I usually don’t score anything with my head, so it’s really exciting to be able to put it in the back of the net,” Hammond said.
Le Bihan’s last start came in Angel City’s last Challenge Cup game. And 18 minutes into this one, midfielder Savannah McCaskill crossed it to forward Scarlett Camberos, who found her open in the center of the box to tap it in.
35 minutes into the game, Le Bihan had another solid opportunity to score when McCaskill delivered a well-placed through ball to her before cutting back and shooting. However, defender Wave Mia Gyau cleared her shot off the goal line.
Le Bihan led the team in shots on target (three) and completed passes in the final third (15).
Forward Jasmyne Spencer last started a game on May 27, like Hammond. And she made the most of her opportunity against the Wave by leading the team in chances created (three), successful dribbles (three), and tackles won (five).
“Jasmyne [Spencer] is incredible one-on-one,” said head coach Becki Tweed. “She’s confident when she’s in the attacking third. She works hard inside and outside both sides of the ball. She looks natural as a winger.”
Wave midfielder Danny Colaprico got one back for the wave 63 minutes into the game. Still, they ultimately fell one goal short as Hammond, Le Bihan, and Spencer’s performances helped Tweed improve her record as Angel City’s head coach to 2-0-1. They are now second in their Challenge Cup group with four points.
Angel City also saw two newcomers make their Angel City debuts. In Ertz and Thompson’s absence, they signed defenders Elizabeth Eddy and Kelsey Hill as National Team Replacement Players (NTPR) and announced the move Wednesday morning.
Eddy entered 65 minutes into the game, playing as a forward. She made a couple of impressive runs to create space in the final third.
“Liz [Eddy] has been a pro for years, so we knew what we were going to get from her coming in,” Tweed said. “She fits that mold of one-on-one; she’s versatile and a competitor. She’s always going to play to win everything and fits in really well.”
Hill made her professional debut when she entered 77 minutes into the game. The Pepperdine graduate has been training with Angel City this season, and finally played.
“Kelsey [Hill] has been with us since preseason, and she’s worked incredibly hard. She’s been a huge team player for us, and to give her a professional debut was a moment that is brilliant for a coach, but just for how much she deserves it. She’s worked so hard to get it, and to come in against our rival team in front of your home crowd isn’t easy, and she dealt with it really well,” Tweed said.
For the Wave, forward Melanie Barcenas made her first professional start and played 73 minutes. The 15-year-old held her ground against NWSL veterans.
“We pushed her a little bit because she has not played as much, but she coped with it really well,” said Wave head coach Casey Stoney. “She started to cramp a little bit. She is an exceptional talent, and we saw that tonight.”
Angel City defeated the Sam Diego Wave, 2-1, on Wednesday. (Credit: Cris Esqueda – The Sporting Tribune)
The Wave plays the Chicago Red Stars next, looking to get on track after four winless games (in all competitions). Their next Challenge Cup game is on July 21 against the Thorns.
For Angel City, they face NJ/NY Gotham FC on Sunday, hoping to continue building momentum. As for their next Challenge Cup game, it will take place on July 29 against the Portland Thorns.