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Angel City FC 2022 Player Postmortem: Christen Press

Talisman did her part until untimely injury.

Nikita Taparia

Christen Press was the obvious choice to be Angel City FC’s first player, and even though the club got in some trouble for jumping the gun on announcing the marquee signing, it was the kind of signing that got people excited right away. A two-time World Cup winner, a Los Angeles native, a scorer — what was not to love?

This was an opportunity for Press to really put a marker down on the club front. She’s had effective spells in her career before, to be sure, but it always seemed like in a year without a World Cup or Olympics, she could really bloom on the club level.

Well, that didn’t quite come off, but mostly because her season was done by mid-June, with two-thirds of the season left to go.

Here are Press’ statistics with Angel City in 2022:

Christen Press Angel City FC 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Challenge Cup 5 5 418 2 0 20 12 0 0
Regular Season 8 8 686 2 1 20 10 1 0
Total 13 13 1,104 4 1 40 22 1 0

So across all competitions, Press scored a goal every 3-4 games. Throw in the own goal she created that beat Kansas City Current and she was off to a good start. After a slow start in the Challenge Cup, Press scored in the last two games she played in that competition and it seemed like things were looking up for the regular season.

They a way. Press scored a terrific goal to beat the Washington Spirit on the road, the kind of geometric finish that is especially satisfying to watch go in the net.

Her best game with the Angels, unfortunately, was her last of 2022, as she had a goal and an assist, before tearing her ACL while dribbling away from goal, in what became a nice road win over Racing Louisville.

Injuries happen, I’m not going to blame anyone for Press tearing her ACL, but I think the play where she was injured and the aftermath sort of demonstrated the limits of Angel City’s attacking strategy while Press was the focal point.

Her skills are intoxicating. She’s very versatile — in her minutes over the years with the U.S. Women’s National Team, Press operates as a wide playmaker as much as she plays as a central striker. It helps to have top players on that team, and while I won’t denigrate the options at Angel City, her attempts to set up teammates for ACFC didn’t really come off.

But Press is also a rare striker who can fully set up her own shot. She’s an elite dribbler, a 99th percentile player in that category, per, and she’s not afraid to shoot, while also largely getting good looks at the same time.

That’s a valuable set of attributes, but what ended up happening, with Press not a target striker but a forward who drops back to pick up possession, was a teammate would get the ball to her when she showed for it, and then she would try to dribble through traffic before shooting. Sometimes, this worked great! See the goals above.

The problem was that opponents pretty quickly figured out Angel City’s main mode of attacking. Press was quickly overwhelmed by double and triple teams when she got on the ball, and while she had plenty of highlight moves to get out of traffic, she also lost possession quite a bit.

But even if Angel City’s offense was somewhat one-dimensional with Press in the lineup, losing their most talented player was pretty tough to pivot from once she was out for the season. They moved quickly, adding Sydney Leroux in a trade — although she ended up with a season-ending injury within a few matches herself — and Claire Emslie arrived and began contributing before long. But while Angel City grinded into remaining in the playoff chase until the final weekend of the season, they clearly missed Press’ creativity and goal contributions.

I think the hope is next year, a healthy Press and a healthy Leroux (much more of a classic No. 9) can lead the forward line for Angel City and produce more consistent scoring for the team. Press will be 34 next year, but I think she has a few more productive years left in her career, and over the past year and half, she doesn’t have many miles on her legs and that should help prolong her career. From a marketing perspective, she’s done just about all Angel City could have hoped for in year one. On the field, she showed glimpses of what she can do, and hopefully she’ll be stronger and more productive than ever in 2023 with the Angels.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.