‘Scrappy’ Angel City beat Royals, 2-1

Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports
Angel City held on to a lead to pick up three points on the road.

Yellow cards and fouls were a common sight on Friday as Angel City and the Utah Royals fought to the finish. In a few words, it was a scrappy match.

For Angel City, it was far from their best. The Royals dictated much of the play, and they were forced to make the most of a few bright stretches. In them, Angel City found a way to win, 2-1. 

One of those moments came 29 minutes into the match. Forward Alyssa Thompson created room to deliver a cross to forward Sydney Leroux, who scored. It was a well-placed ball from Thompson and a solid finish from Leroux to put Angel City ahead, 1-0.

“It is really hard to defend those balls once you get in behind the fullback, and I think you’ll see more of Alyssa [Thompson] and [Leroux’s] connection as we go along,” Tweed said. “It takes time to build. But tonight was a little glimpse into that connection.”

Later in the first half, off-balance midfielder Kennedy Fuller tapped the ball forward to Thompson, who burst forward into the box and drew a foul. In the 40th minute, Claire Emslie buried the following penalty kick to give Angel City a 2-0 lead.

Emslie’s goal was her fifth of the season, which puts her second in the Golden Boot race. She trails Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith, who has scored seven goals. Emslie also became the first Angel City player to score in three consecutive games, according to NWSL Communications.

Capitalizing on those moments helped Angel City take a lead. Then, the second half featured few chances on both sides as they tried to play long balls. Fouls were also a regular occurrence at this time.

Royals midfielder Dana Federer pulled a goal back in the 51st minute, but Angel City held on through scrappy defense.

Part of that effort included clutch saves from goalkeeper DiDi Haracic. 73 minutes into the match, she made a diving stop on a shot by Royals midfielder Amandine Henry from outside the box. Then, Haracic also stopped the follow-up attempt.

“[Haracic] made some brilliant saves,” Tweed said. “We don’t want to give away those opportunities. But keeping [Haracic] sharp and being able to perform like that is ultimately really important for this team and on the road. We’re disappointed not to come away with a clean sheet–that’s something that we always strive for, especially on the road. But yeah, DiDi was great tonight.” 

While Angel City claimed victory, Tweed and Leroux expressed their frustration with the officiating postgame. According to FotMob, the Royals committed 21 fouls compared to Angel City’s 14. However, Angel City was issued four yellow cards (plus one to Tweed), whereas the Royals were shown two. 

“The refereeing was absolutely horrific,” Leroux said. “There were so many fouls and no yellow cards, and we got yellow cards. The ref made it about him, and that’s not what this game is about. It really ruined the game.

We’re lucky that we were able to get those three points because that’s all that really matters. But, it was just it was a tough game to play in, and it was dirty, and it was chippy, and we are just happy to walk away with three points.”

The win moved Angel City to seventh in the NWSL standings through seven matches. Next, they face the Houston Dash on May 12. 

Angel City has won three of their last four matches, with arguably their best performance coming on the one they lost (to the Kansas City Current). They appear to be gaining momentum early in the season. 

“We’ve won three of the last four. The game that we maybe played the best football in, we lost. That just sums up football in general,” Tweed said. “Happy to leave (Utah) with three points and pick up three points on the road in a scrappy performance, but not our most convincing and best performance by any means.”