Rolling hills of lush chaparral, 77 degrees, 8-mile visibility — Fullerton, California couldn’t have been more picturesque Saturday afternoon.
But even with home field advantage, the results were as clear as day: reps matter. In its second game as a franchise, which ended in a 3-1 loss against OL Reign at Titan Stadium, Angel City FC looked unsettled. Meanwhile, The Bold showed all the makings of a balanced and experienced group after boasting six saves and eight shots on goal.
More than 4,000 fans were in attendance, but silence loomed over Angel City’s temporary home stadium as soon as Reign’s Veronica Latsko scored the game’s first goal. In the 12th minute, the team’s newest forward from Houston struck a through ball by Rose Lavelle to the back of the net past a charging DiDi Haračić. Just six minutes later, Reign midfielder Alana Cook drove in a header off of a cross by Angelina a couple of feet away from the goal area.
For the home team, it was ultimately a game punctuated by untimely errant passes and muffed tackles — a far cry from the kind of star power LA’s newest sports franchise possesses. And just when the home crowd thought that things couldn’t get much worse, it did. Savannah McCaskill was called for a red card after sliding into Latsko for a 50/50 ball in the 31st minute, leaving Angel City with one less player to show.
“Obviously, going down a man isn’t something that you want to do,” said forward Simone Charley. “But we just kept the energy, we kept pushing, and I’m just really proud of our mentality. Just making the most of it and as long as everyone’s giving their best, that’s all you can ask.”
After the 45th minute, the hope was that the dust had settled. Five minutes from the halftime break, however, Reign added insult to injury. Putting her team up 3-0, Angelina tapped the ball in to the back of the net following a series of two perfectly placed passes from Lavelle to Latsko.
Angel City tried to come out swinging with punches of its own, but few landed. Arguably the best chance came from two-time World Cup Champion forward Christen Press, who missed a straightaway strike when the ball was propped up into the air in the 47th minute. Later though, in the 67th minute, the home team finally connected on a score.
With hopes to turn the tide, Charley found former Portland teammate Tyler Lussi, who sent the ball flying down the middle to avoid a shutout in Fullerton. Thereafter, every offensive spark was stunted by the Reign’s ironclad back line.
Though the ending 3-1 scoreline is one that Angel City will be quick to forget, the optimism for its season remains alive and well. After all, the team had played a grand total of 90 minutes together before the start of Saturday’s match.
The bigger picture is that Angel City FC has more than enough time to find its bearings.
For one, its 52% ball possession by the end of the match tells a different story. And while there may be plenty of tactical takeaways from the team’s first-ever loss, managing even one goal against such a longstanding program in OL Reign is a good start. Furthermore, it has yet to play on its true home turf in the heart of LA: Banc of California Stadium.
“In terms of performance and process, we took two big steps forward today,” said head coach Freya Coombe. “For a team that’s so new, we want to try and have an element of consistency. But we also want to make sure that we are competitive in the games that we’re facing.”
As the city’s premier women’s soccer team, Angel City FC has a lot of promise. Well-funded and owned by the likes of Natalie Portman, Serena Williams and Becky G, it has already generated more hype than many other professional sports teams in small-market cities.
Now, the goal is clearer than ever: focus on winning to draw in bigger crowds.
Angel City FC will look to capture its first-ever victory against Portland Thorns FC on Wednesday, March 30 as it continues play in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup.