(East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: The 2023 NWSL season’s final stage for our Angel City Football Club (ACFC), was nicely set for an opportunity to extend their play into the postseason and capture a much-sought after berth into the coveted “playoffs” with a win over the 1st place, Portland Thorns, in this 2:00 pm matinee start time for the match.
And extend it they did, winning in a most exciting and dominant fashion. Please read the full story and take a very good look at our Bonus Photo Gallery of sights and action that took place in this historic match at BMO Stadium on Sunday, 10/15/23.
Now we wait for the Quarterfinal round of the playoffs to start, and on Friday, 10/20, the Angel City Football Club, now (8-7-7) for 31 points, will travel to Seattle’s Lumen Field to face the #4 seeded team, the OL Reign with their record of (9-8-5) valued at 32 points.
This match, scheduled to start at 7:00 pm | PST, will be shown on the Paramount+ Network (US), plus, look for these other outlets to carry the match: NWSLSoccer.com (international); iHeart (English radio); and KWKW 1330 AM (Spanish radio).
[PRE-MATCH]: “All or Nothing” / “Do or Die” were some probable match war cries for Angel City in this regular season finale at BMO Stadium. The 8th place Angel City FC with their record of (7-7-7) and 28 points welcomed the NWSL’s leading Portland Thorns, with their overall record of (10-6-5) valued at 35 points.
The match weather conditions were absolutely perfect with a summer-like sun bathing the BMO Stadium turf as many fans were able to enjoy the warm rays of the sun shining down onto most of the pitch.
[REFEREE]: Elvis Osmanovic
[Photo Gallery Credit]: Frankli Robles, for East L.A. Sports Scene Productions.
[1st HALF]: ACFC’s Interim Head Coach, Becki Tweed sent out her Starting XI, but it did not include the Rookie, #21 Alyssa Thompson, nor veteran #18 Jun Endo. Perhaps it was the Coach’s decision to possibly use them to start the 2nd half of a (0-0), or perhaps a (1-1) draw.
Nonetheless, the match started and both teams were in probative defensive and offensive postures, feeling each other out and looking for those small, but decisive movements that could lead them into a strong scoring attack and/or possibly the advantage of taking several corner kicks.
Then lo and behold, at minute (36:00), the ACFC offense cracked open a hole in the Thorns’ defense when Defender, #5 M.A. Vignola took the asset by Sydney Leroux, sized up her dead aim on a small and closing scoring window, for an angled left-of-center, shot-on-goal and she rocketed it past goalkeeper, #1 Bella Bixby and into the netting for the match’s first goal and a (1-0) lead. The crowd exploded with waves of cascading applause and thunderous cheers for Vignola’s achievement and for the team’s well-coordinated effort.
Then again, just (3:00) minutes later, at the (38:00) mark, on a crosser from #10 Claire Emslie that sailed past the front of the goal, #15 Scarlett Camberos focused strongly on making contact and stunned the Thorns GK again with a great “header” just to the left of the goalkeeper for the credit. Referee Osmanovic proceeded to add 3 minutes of “Stoppage” time to the period, but neither team threatened to score, thus ending the first half of play with Angel City out in front by a surprising, but a much-welcomed shut-out of (2-0).
[HALF-TIME SCORE]: ACFC 2 Portland 0
[2nd HALF]: The offensive rhythm remained on point to the 47th minute, and as though there had been no halftime intermission, ACFC was back on the attack. They were quickly rewarded when midfielder, #9 Savannah McCaskill rolled in a short grounder past the keeper, Bixby, for the team’s third goal of the match. Credit the assist to M.A. Vignola.
At this point in the match, it was becoming more evident that there would be no stopping Interim Coach, Becki Tweed’s squad as #2 Sydney Leroux next wowed the crowd with her amazing and electrifying “bicycle kick” goal, reminiscent of the late and great Pelé. Her incredible shot at minute (51:00) sailed up and over Bixby, who was stunned that a shot had even been taken by Leroux, from just to the right of center. The score was now a commanding (4-0) at this juncture in the match.
Coach Tweed then went to her substitution plan for the match and sent in very confidently, at minute (64:00), Rookie, #21 Alyssa Thompson for #10 Claire Emslie along with #17 Dani Weatherholt for #99 Madison Hammond. And then at the 72nd minute, Coach sent in the very popular #3 Jasmyne Spencer, who made her entrance onto the pitch for #5 Ali Reilly, who was slightly injured on the previous play. And to continue her second double substitution, Coach Tweed’s Japanese super-star player, #18 Jun Endo, was sent in for #15 Scarlett Camberos.
But, even with all of that experience taking to the pitch, all was not 100% wrapped up due to these multiple changes by Angel City. There was still time to go with Sophia Smith, now having subbed in for Crystal Dunn at minute (61:00). Reyna Reyes and Hanna Betfort were also subbed into the match for the Thorns. ACFC, in the minds of its fans, was certainly declared the winner of the match at this particular time.
But, in a “no quit” effort, at minute (78:00), Forward, #8 Hina Sugita put the Thorns on the scoreboard with their first goal, cutting the lead to (4-1). Then, not to be outdone by her Japanese co-national, at minute (80:00), ACFC’s #18 Jun Endo then countered right back with her own goal, giving her team a gigantic and insurmountable (5-1) lead. Forward, #21 Alyssa Thompson found her teammate wide open on the left flank and put the ball directly in her striker’s attack rhythm on the goalkeeper for the team’s fifth and final goal of the match.
Historically, this could become a great “trivia” question in NWSL annals to learn who were the first Japanese National Team players from different NWSL clubs who scored – “back-to-back” goals against each other in the same match?
With the BMO Scoreboard now ticking upwards and towards the closing (90:00) minute mark of Full-time regulation, the Referee added (6:00) minutes of “Stoppage ” time to end the match. It was basically an “all-academic” situation then to know who would be the winning team and the “sold-out” Fan-Appreciation Day” crowd simply let go with its dynamic and most-encouraging applause and celebratory cheering well after the Referee had blown his final whistle ending the match.
[FULL-TIME SCORE]: Angel City FC 5 Portland Thorns 1
[ATTENDANCE]: 22,000 (Sold-out)
[OF SIGNIFICANCE]: Coach Tweed’s decision to not start #21 Alyssa Thompson and #18 Jun Endo, the two spark-plug type of players needed to win a “high pressure” match such as this one. Coach Tweed has certainly earned a competitive consideration in the current hunt for a new Head Coach, based on her “eye-catching” team Won-Loss record since her appointment, the development of great player rotations and chemistries for matches, and the demonstration a very vigilant and tactful guidance of leading the team to its first-ever playoff appearance.