clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Angel City FC 2022 Player Postmortem: Paige Nielsen

Veteran faced adversity and came back.

NWSL: Angel City FC at Kansas City Current Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Paige Nielsen was one of Angel City FC’s expansion draft selections ahead of the 2022 season, and like many of her teammates, she missed major time due to a health issue. On the bright side, she was one of the few players out an extended run who ended up getting regular minutes in the back half of the season.

A defender who can play fullback but who has mostly played center back in NWSL, Freya Coombe hinted after selecting Nielsen that she was hoping to play some three center back formations in 2022, a role that Nielsen seems to have played her best at. As it was, with the Washington Spirit, Nielsen had become the first center back off the bench as that team played with two center backs on their way to the league title in 2021.

But all the plans of Coombe and others at the club were torn up in preseason. Sarah Gorden, a certain starter at center back, tore her ACL, and ended up missing the year entirely. Then Nielsen had a freak health issue. She suffered a deep vein thrombosis in one of her arms, which needed surgery that she detailed in an instagram post. The surgery was extensive, if successful, but it was a long road to get on the field with the Angels.

Here’s Nielsen’s competitive stats with Angel City in 2022:

Paige Nielsen 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 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Regular Season 20 14 1,299 0 1 3 1 4 0
Total 20 14 1,299 0 1 3 1 4 0

After making her 2022 debut in mid-May with a couple momentary shifts off the bench at the end of games, Nielsen worked up to fitness. By the time Vanessa Gilles left the lineup for the rest of the year midseason, Nielsen was nearing form, and she took over as the starter at center back alongside Megan Reid from the start of July on. And credit to her, she stayed healthy and was a fixture in the lineup down the stretch.

Angel City entered a “needs must” situation for the year due to absences in defense, and while it would have been nice to see some more rotation among the available players and we didn’t get to see Nielsen in the presumably ideal three-CB set-up, her advanced stats were pretty mixed in 2022. Per her scouting report graph on, Nielsen was absolutely elite in blocks, and she was strong in clearances as well.

The biggest highlight of the season for Nielsen came in August, with her “assist” for Cari Roccaro’s goal, which was perhaps the slightest of flick-on touches, but hey, she got the credit for it!

Nielsen’s future is currently unclear, as she has an option year for 2023 and we’ll have to see if that is activated. She’s 29, so right at peak age for a pro, she’s got a lot of experience in NWSL and abroad, and she’s familiar with this team. If she came back, if the team is healthy again, perhaps that three-center back look can finally be run out, and we can see how Nielsen looks on the Angels in that formation.

But in many ways, coming back at all was the big story of Paige Nielsen’s season. She was knocked down, but she recovered from needed surgery and played a major role in the season. It’s a journey that doesn’t show up in the stats but impressive nonetheless. We’ll see where it goes from here.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.