What makes Casey Phair special?

Angel City Football Club
The 16-year-old is Angel City’s youngest singing? What makes her capable of playing professionally at such a young age?

LOS ANGELES — In July of 2023, a group of Angel City fans met at Love Hour in Koreatown, Los Angeles, to watch South Korea and Colombia face off in the Women’s World Cup. It was a match dear to the fans of various backgrounds despite its little connection to their favorite NWSL club. Little did many of them know, they were cheering for a future Angel City player, Casey Phair, that day.

Around six months later, Phair, was welcomed at Love Hour to Angel City. The club announced on Thursday the 16-year-old phenom signed with the team via the NWSL U-18 entry mechanism. Her contract runs through 2026.  

Phair was introduced at the same spot where many Angel City fans came together to watch her team play. This time, she was being announced as Angel City’s newest player. She led the Koreatown Run Club in stretches ahead of their run, which started at Love Hour.

Angel City Football Club

Phair trained with multiple NWSL clubs, including Angel City, after making history at the World Cup. Such an experience, paired with her outstanding play in other competitions, made her a desirable candidate for signing. 

Phair is the youngest player to play in the Women’s World Cup. She participated in the tournament as a part of the South Korean national team, appearing in all three of their matches. 

Her debut came in South Korea’s first match against Colombia, entering in the 78th minute. Surrounding her in the crowd was a sea of the opposing teams, yellow, blue, and red, leaving the debutant nervous. However, she entered her element once she stepped on the field.  

“When I stood on the line against Colombia, it was so crazy,” Phair said. “There were a bunch of Colombian fans there. So all I was seeing was yellow, red, and blue. It was so nerve-racking. But then, when I ran around on the field and tackled someone pretty hard, my nerves were relieved.”

Phair’s confidence grew as the tournament ensued, starting the final match. Unfortunately for her, South Korea’s World Cup journey ended in the group stage. Nonetheless, it left her with incredible memories, and a starting point to build on.  

Phair did just that when Olympic qualifying came around in October. She scored a hat trick against Thailand, contributing to a 10-1 thrashing of the opposing team. 

“I guess it just felt like another game,” Phair said. “It was fun to share that celebration with my teammates… I was just doing my job.”

Her next step is becoming a professional with Angel City, a move that is becoming increasingly common in the NWSL. Angel City signed 17-year-old, Gisele Thompson earlier in the 2023 offseason, following the move by adding Phair. In 2023, they drafted Gisele’s sister and 18-year-old, Alyssa Thompson, with the first overall pick.

Having them (Alyssa and Gisele Thompson) on the team as well is comforting to me,” Phair said. “So I know I’m not alone in this situation, being so much younger than everyone, and they’re great people as well. They’re so funny. So nice. I’m excited to start.”

Not every player is capable of making the jump at such a young age, it is a distinct group. One way Phair showed such special quality was by training with Angel City in 2023. While she was only with them for two weeks, she left a lasting mark on the coaching staff. She entered Angel City’s environment with remarkable poise, displaying maturity ahead of her age.

“Looking at how unfazed she is by communicating with adults; she is 16. And that’s something that people underestimate,” Tweed said. “When we brought her into LA and when she came to train with us, it was really important that she came into our environment because we have to think about her as a player and her as a person.”

“She just came in, super unafraid, really excited to be herself. I can pinpoint a couple of moments within the sessions where it’s a small detail, but the small detail, you can see that she reads the cues straightaway and she changes it and fixes it, and adapts in the moment and gets success. And then, in that success, she wants to be coached more and more.”

On the field, Phair is an exceptional talent. She is fast, strong, and a capable presser. Phair is unafraid and a talented player in and around the opposing team’s 18-yard box. Phair is also adaptable and capable of handling pressure. 

“The way that she is able to see the game already. Her adaptability, that quickness to be coachable and adaptable. And recognizing things where if she doesn’t have it, then it’s going to take a lot longer for that development to happen. But she already has it,” said general manager Angela Hucles Mangano.

Such ability makes Phair a candidate to receive playing time straight away with Angel City. Preseason, which began on Jan. 22, is a key factor in determining what such a role looks like. Tweed wants Phair to be herself and not be discouraged by the ups and downs of the process when they come. 

Playing time in 2024 is not the only objective, though. Phair is confident in Angel City’s long-term development plan for her. Still, one area she wants to work on straight away is gaining experience. She had a taste of high-level soccer in the World Cup and wants to build on it.

“To gain more experience because my first senior team experience was the World Cup, which is obviously amazing and a huge atmosphere. But to gain more experience and comfort with like the huge crowds and just being more calm in that sense,” Phair said.

Playing in front of large crowds is an area Phair will have to become accustomed to quickly in Los Angeles. Angel City has been first or second in the NWSL in attendance during its first two seasons, with an average of just under 20,000 fans packing their home, BMO Stadium. 

Phair is looking forward to the crowds like the ones she played in front of during the World Cup. Only this time, it will not be a sea of opposing colors; it will be the pink and gold of “La Fortaleza,” rooting her on.