(East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: Saturday, April 15th was another perfect Spring day in the City of the Angels. And now conversely, as one can now proudly say, our NWSL team, Angel City, with their (1-1-0 = 3 points) record on this match day, was ready to take on its opponent, the Racing Louisville Football Club, (0-0-2 = 2 points), in their second home match of the still young season at BMO Stadium.
The Club has been rather busy right up to the start of, and now several weeks into the season with key roster additions which are already paying off in big time dividends.
At this time, while in pre-match mode, I’d like to turn your attention to another one of our City of Angels professional teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers, as they celebrated on this same ACFC match-day, their annual, April 15th commemoration of, and homage, to the legendary and Baseball Hall of Famer, Mr. Jackie Robinson, #42.
On one of the most memorable days in ALL of sports history, we want to pause for a moment and in unison, accentuate the great love and appreciation as demonstrated by the 52,375 Los Angeles Dodger fans at Dodger Stadium on this day in their annual tribute to #42/Jackie Robinson.
To close our brief tribute, as thankful and appreciative sports fans, let’s all take a moment in silent homage to pay our full respects to Jackie as well.
[Photo Gallery Courtesy]: Angel City Football Club
[PRE-MATCH]: Contrary to previous matches, to start the match, there was no apparent leader of the fans’ Drum Section located and seated in the North end of BMO Stadium to provide a strong and pulsating rhythm section to jive with the teams corresponding movements on the pitch. But that scenario changed after the first phase of the match was underway. And then it was back to normal.
[1st HALF]: One of the most noted differences to start this match was the absence of #21/Alyssa Thompson in the starting line-up. Per her busy week with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, she certainly was given a “rest” from going the full (90:00) minutes due to her high-level performance in the second International Friendly match vs. the Republic of Ireland on April 11th. Thompson started at forward and played the full (90:00) minutes in the (1-0) victory.
In describing the very early action, both teams had one swing up, and one back down the pitch, but at the (3:00) minute mark, Angel City’s defender, #16/MA Vignola, was called for a tripping foul that resulted in a Penalty Kick for Racing/Louisville’s #10/Nadia Nadim.
After measuring up ACFC’s goalkeeper, DiDi Haračić, Nadim slowly placed the ball down on the pitch and then drove a hard slider to the left, while Heračić went to her right in attempting to block the shot. Result—the first goal of the match was scored for Racing Louisville, as they took a (1-0) lead.
Subsequently, the match tempo became upbeat as the two squads consistently battled into each other’s territory, but both came away empty-handed.
But then, at minute (32:00) Racing’s #22/Kirsten Davis got behind the ACFC defensive alignment and struck a slashing line drive from the 18 yard box and just past the outstretched arms of Heračić for their second goal of the match. The BMO Scoreboard now read Racing Louisville FC 2, Angel City FC 0.
The style of play began to mellow out at this juncture of the match, although Angel City did not pose very many significant threats of scoring goals on Racing. Once again, both teams managed to get into their opponent’s territory at will. The match’s back ‘n forth continued toward the half-way mark of 45 minutes, but ACFC did not appear to be competing in desperation, although they were down by two goals. No additional and mounted attacks were realized by Angel City and Racing simply sent defenders into its back-court to block those multiple threats by ACFC.
Referee, Brad Jensen added (5:00) minutes of Stoppage time to the first period. ACFC made several more attempts on goal in this timeframe, and threatened one last time, but failed to end the (50:00) minute period with a score.
[HALFTIME SCORE]: Racing Louisville FC 2 Angel City 0
[2nd HALF]: Angel City’s first (10:00) minutes were spent in aligning and girding themselves for an all-out assault on Racing-Louisville FC due to their trailing by a pair of goals. There was now a keen sense of urgency to climb back into the match offensively. And with a new perspective urged on by Coach Coombe and her coaching staff, hope rose to the surface when Coombe substituted her outstanding, young forward, #21/Alyssa Thompson, into the match. Needless to say, the young fan favorite was received with an (8.0) decibel reading from her devoted fanbase. Also going into the match was defender, #99/Madison Hammond.
At minute (66:00), after Thompson kept a long-ball drive alive with a great hustle play, ACFC was awarded a FREE kick as a result of the foul committed on Thompson for her efforts to maintain control and possession near the goal. Then, midfielder, #9/Savannah McCaskill was given the Corner Kick, and shades of her winning “header” against the Orlando Pride two weeks ago, forward, #33/Katie Johnson did a repeat performance to give her club its first goal of the match, closing the score to (2-1), Racing.
The large, home BMO crowd was now totally awake, alert, and very involved with every movement, whether it was on defense or offense. They were now totally immersed in the match, cheering, groaning, and booing at “no-calls” by the Referee as the match wore on. As the scoreboard game clock reached the (70:00) minute mark, ACFC fans were now amping their voices up and pleading for their team to score once again and pull even with the visitors.
Then, as if it was pre-ordained for ACFC to not let its fans down, again it was #9/Savannah McCaskill, who pulled the lucky rabbit out of the hat and gave her team a tremendous lift with her creative and timely-measured shot from the right side of the pitch and into the left side of the netting for the tying score. Cascades of roars, cheers, tons of smiles, high-fives, and many leaps of joy merged themselves into the fan base’s momentum till the end of the match.
With that tying McCaskill goal at minute (80:00), it was total happiness for Angel City and much disappointment for Racing Louisville as both squads played out the rest of the match, realizing that it would more than likely end in a draw. But voilá, each team earned its one valued point, while avoiding a (0) and a loss on their record.
[FULL-TIME SCORE]: Angel City 2 Racing Louisville FC. 2 [ATTENDANCE]: 18,007
[MATCH STATISTICAL SNAPSHOT]: ACFC led in all categories: 20-13/Total Shots; 6-2/Shots-on-goal; 7-4/Corner kicks; and 8-4/Saves.
[OF SIGNIFCANCE]: #21/Alyssa Thompson’s subsitition into the match at the 68th minute. She caused an immediate energy spike in her team as they rallied from an improbable (2-0) score to tie the match. And, showing her youthful exuberance, she nearly scored the winning goal in the 90th minute but but it was saved by goalkeeper, Katie Lund.
Forward/#33/Katie Johnson’s remarkable side-track “Header” scoring shot off the corner kick to bring ACFC back into the match with plenty of time left to play.
Midfielder/#9/Savannah McCaskill’s incredible 25 yard sidewinder kick from her right to the deep left corner for the tying goal.
[NEXT UP]: Challengers Cup, OL Reign, Wednesday, April 19th, at 7:00 pm. The match will be carried on CBS Sports Network (CBSSN).
Katie Johnson, ACFC Forward
On positive takeaways from the match: “We definitely showed the grit our team has, and that we will fight to the end. We never gave up. That’s a really important characteristic and value to have for a team that we can build off of.”
On playing in her hometown: “Having my family and friends here makes my off-field experience a lot more enjoyable. It makes me happier and more excited to be on the field. It definitely feels like a full circle moment for me having grown up in this area. When I was younger, I would always wish there was a professional team here, so it feels really special for me to be here. Everything happens for a reason, and I believe that I was meant to be here.”
On the updated Challenge Cup format: “It’s definitely going to be different. It’s in the middle of the season, and the games will have a different look and feel. At the beginning of the season, you’re still trying to form bonds and relationships with players. Now that it’s going to be mixed in. Depth will be important for us, too.”
Savannah McCaskill, ACFC Midfielder
On first half: “You never want to give up a penalty kick that early. We wanted to keep the ball and stay compact, but that’s not what we did in the first half. Instead, we came out on our back foot, and weren’t really prepared for what they were going to throw at us. Going into the second half, we knew we had to be better.”
On upcoming games this week: “We get to play at home for the next two games, which is huge. Whenever you have a three-game week like this, it’s really important that you get to sleep in your own bed. That seems silly and simple, but not having to travel, getting to do your daily routine, and not having to worry about all the external factors is huge. After the game, we spoke about making sure that we recover properly and do whatever we need to do in order to show up again on Wednesday. The mindset is three points.”
On energy throughout the match: “We just didn’t show up like we needed to in the first half. From an individual and a collective standpoint, the energy wasn’t there, and we didn’t do what we needed to do, both on and off the ball. Everyone saw in the second half, fatigue wasn’t an issue. We had the energy, we had everything that we needed to go and get two goals back. That’s just something that we have to focus on as a group going forward, that it’s not a fatigue issue.”
Freya Coombe, ACFC Head Coach
On the differences between the halves: “We didn’t get started with any energy. Savannah [McCaskill] just said that we were completely on the back foot. Fair play to Louisville, they had all the energy, won the tackles, looked like the brighter team, and punished us. They punished us for being second best, but in the second half we dominated all the categories.
“We were able to win balls, had better shape behind the ball to be able to stop those transitional moments. We were a little bit more patient rather than sending balls into an empty box. We were able to possess the ball a little more and look for those moments to attack and that was key.”
On McCaskill’s performance: “Savannah led the categories in terms of statistics which included shots on target, crosses attempted, completed passes in the final third, completed passes, successful dribbles and second in chances created, as well as a goal. That’s one hell of a performance.”
On Thompson’s performance: “She did well, obviously she had a mini adventure previously in the lead up to this which was fantastic for her, we’re very supportive of that. It was important for us to manage her minutes coming back in because she had a journey and played the 90+ minutes for the US Women’s National Team. She’s always looking dangerous when she comes in.”
“Again, her ability to get front up, get forward facing and be able to advance the ball is brilliant, and she had a couple of opportunities to put shots on target. You always have to change how you defend her. You can see the double coverage on her and it’s the same as when people defend Bukayo Saka from Arsenal. You have to commit an extra number and that opens up an opportunity somewhere else, so she often plays unselfishly in that regard.”