Following a tough Challenge Cup, where Angel City was only able to register one win, the new expansion side opened up the regular season on their home turf in a packed Banc of California Stadium. Against arguably the most consistent team in the last few weeks, Angel City did not back down as it drilled two goals in the back of the net in the first 13 minutes of play against the North Carolina Courage. 21-year-old Japanese forward Jun Endo was magnificent to start the contest as she assisted on the first goal, and slotted the next one in the bottom right corner. The Challenge Cup for Angel City was all about constant improvement as the team has deserved the last two wins given all of the growth that this club has gone through in the span of just a few weeks. An expansion side has never made it to the NWSL playoffs before, but with such quality players combined with the determination to make history, Angel City has the tools to finish in the top six in the league.
Following the emotional win, captain Ali Riley spoke on the significance, stating, "I have waited for a moment like this for 12 years...To be here with my parents watching this game, for us to win, to feel the love and support, I think we proved that anything is possible in women’s sports...I know it was just Game 1. But it was a moment I’ll never forget and no matter what happens this season, no one can ever take tonight away from us."
The atmosphere, and the energy in the stands, and on the pitch was electric. The city of Los Angeles demonstrated why they were ready for an NWSL team. Beating a two-time NWSL Champion, and a consistent mainstay at the top of the league in its first match, Angel City announced that it had arrived. After going down by one to OL Reign in one of the last matches of the Challenge Cup, Angel City played a remarkable half of soccer but failed to get that result in the end. This time around against another powerhouse, Angel City was able to remain solid in the back as former Gotham FC goalkeeper DiDi Haracic made three crucial saves to keep the Courage at bay. In the first contest in front of the home fans in this club's history, it would be normal to have some nerves, but there was no sight of them right from the kick.
Expansion sides in the NWSL are not supposed to have this much talent in their first season. Both Kansas City Current, and Racing Louisville FC struggled significantly in their first season as a club, but there is a different energy around San Diego Wave, and Angel City this time around. With two new expansion teams, the assumption would be that the league would become less competitive, but so far it has been anything but that. The first weekend of NWSL action is in the books, and without many storylines in the Challenge Cup for this new club, Angel City started off its franchise in a way not even a Hollywood scriptwriter could. Seeing women's soccer in the United States reach a level with this much excitement only begs the question, how far can this game go? The answer seems clear after Friday night at the Banc of California Stadium, this game has limitless possibilities.
Freya Coombe and the rest of the Angel City franchise will remember that night as the beginning of a new chapter in the city of Los Angeles. Heading into the rest of the season, Angel City is filled with plenty of potential to keep this train chugging in the right direction. The combination of Christen Press, Endo, and former Thorns attacker Tyler Lussi up top with Savannah McCaskill pulling all the strings in the midfield makes this team a mismatch for anyone. The experience of Riley in the back, and Haracic in goal are a great start to a defense that has the bones to become one of the best in the NWSL. Jasmyne Spencer and Simone Charley are just human highlights waiting to unfold. Despite being in its first season, Angel City has the players, and experience at the coaching level to surprise the rest of the league.
Next up for Angel City is a team looking to find their identity once again after appointing a new coach in the offseason combined with key injuries. Orlando Pride left it all out there in the Challenge Cup, but ultimately, it just was not enough. The squad's most essential player, Marta was ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in her left knee. Standout goalkeeper, Erin Mcleod was ruled out for 4-6 weeks back at the beginning of April, and without her, Orlando has lacked the solidity it had before. With other names on Amanda Cromwell's squad in and out of the lineup, Angel City looks to take advantage and win its second home game of the season.
The beginning of Angel City Football Club will always be cherished by all of the owners, coaches, and players. When this team does find success in the future, this night will be a symbol of where it all started. The fans brought a different type of environment to an NWSL game than most regulars of the league are used to. The evolution of women's soccer and the NWSL are in full force. Press is the face of Los Angeles's newest professional franchise, but the first match on their home soil proved the team is much bigger than just one superstar. The beginning of Hollywood movies usually starts with some introductions of the main characters as the audience gets to know them, but Angel City's new film did not follow the normal narrative. Angel City kicks its franchise off with a bang, with the notion that the future of this club and women's soccer in Los Angeles is as bright as ever before.