LOS ANGELES — Sarah Gorden listens to Lil Baby before training as his music makes up most of her ‘comeback’ playlist. The Angel City FC center-back began listening to his songs as she anticipated her return to the club’s activities. This week, she made the comeback she had been waiting months for; she participated in training this week as her team prepared for the start of the season.
When her teammates heard she was returning, they cheered her on through congratulatory texts.
“I got a few texts before the first team training, and there were definitely a few tears on my part,” Gorden said. “I am emotional, so it has just come full circle because ACL recovery is a lot of hard work… At one point, I couldn’t even lift up my knee or my quad.”
Once Gorden arrived on the field, her peers’ support only increased; she received hugs from everyone as they welcomed her back.
“I felt really celebrated by my teammates,” she said. “Obviously, this week being my first team practice back, it just felt really good to be surrounded by their energy and their love.”
Gorden was traded by the Chicago Red Stars to Angel City in 2021 after playing every minute of each match the previous season. However, she suffered an ACL injury before debuting for Angel City, forcing her to miss the entire year.
While recovering from the injury, Gorden spent much time alone. She felt agony, but she pushed aside her emotions and quickly began her recovery. She transformed her attitude while fighting to return to the field.
“So many hours in isolation… creates a different mentality in you,” Gorden said. “You find another level in your mental game…. [Now], I feel so much more focused, so refreshed on the field, and just… feel like a different athlete on the field.”
Without Gorden, Angel City went 8-9-5 and missed the playoffs by four points. Now that she is back, she hopes to aid them in reaching the playoffs while furthering her game.
“I want to help this team make the playoffs… and for me, I want to be better than where I was in 2021 when I left the game,” Gorden said. “It is going to take a little bit of time to get back to where I was, and then I really want to go beyond that.”
To help them reach the postseason, Gorden could bolster an Angel City defense that allowed 27 goals in 22 games last season. She is not the typical large-bodied center-back. Rather, she is smaller and quick, allowing her to break the first line of defense with her dribbling skills. She also often succeeds in one-on-one defending, adding layers to Angel City’s backline.
Gorden does not know her role during the upcoming season but is willing to follow the club’s requests.
“Whatever I got to do, I am excited to do it,” Gorden said.
Gorden feels close to 100% but will continue taking the necessary precautions to prevent re-injury and return to her complete form. With Lil Baby’s tunes in her mind, she hopes to help the club reach its second season’s goals. This work begins as she trains with the team in the coming weeks.