As it’s said in woso (women’s soccer), Angel City FC are having an okay time. In fact, they seem to be having the most okay of times. Having opened up preseason camp, the team held their first-ever media availability this past Friday, where head coach Freya Coombe and a couple of players got to speak ahead of the season for the first time.
The theme of the day, excitement. Coach and players alike were all smiles, and spoke about how exciting it was to be a part of a team set for its inaugural season, a team that was a mere dream just a couple of years ago.
Defender Ali Riley said it best.
“To be here means so much to me. It’s a dream come true, this hasn't actually been possible, I guess when I say that, it’s a dream I didn't even know I could have.”
“I was promised to be drafted to the LA Sol, and of course, they drafted better players,” Riley continued. “Since then, when the team folded, there was all the talk about a team coming back to LA, and for the team to actually be here, and to be on this team, I'm so proud, I'm so happy.”
With several players on the team from the LA area, this is a shared sentiment. With NWSL trending upward in terms of growth, having a team in one of the world’s largest markets is a no-brainer, but it doesn't mean it’s taken for granted.
It was the initial grassroots effort of “Bring NWSL to LA” that really opened eyes. The support for that movement was proof that fans were hungry and ready to claim an NWSL as their own. That support was cemented when the team announced they had already sold over 13,000 season tickets for the upcoming inaugural 2022 season. For fans and players alike, having Angel City FC is a culmination of a dream years in the making.
“To be here with my family, represent this city, and something that is almost more important to me than football is making an impact in the community, and I know that is what this club wants to do, and I can't wait to be part of all of these opportunities” Riley continued.
Angel City goalkeeper DiDi Haracic also spoke to media, touching on her excitement about the club and what they represent.
“Just to piggyback off what Ali said, this club I am so happy to be a part of because it’s more than just soccer. They truly want what's best for the players and the community, and I think this is the standard other teams in the NWSL need to have,” she said.
Haracic has played 10 seasons in the NWSL, so coming from a veteran like her, is a big statement what the club want their identity to be.
Of course, being an LA sports team, the eventual goal is to compete for championships, plural. However, when you're building an organization from the ground up, in a community as diverse and supportive as Los Angeles, establishing your identity and how you want to be perceived throughout the city, is just as important as what you do on the playing field. Speaking of, Coombe spoke on how it felt to get into training, and what the building of the roster might look like going forward.
“We had a really great training session. Meeting the players in person was just incredible, it was really nice to meet in person after seeing Zoom screens and telephone calls, now it’s real. The ball is being kicked, seeing that first ball roll in training was unbelievable,” Coombe said.
Angel City brought in one of the smaller preseason rosters, but when asked, Coombe said it was part of the team's plan, saying “For us, we wanted to start preseason with a roster that looks a little bit like the roster we’re going to have in the season. It’s important that we don't have a ton of people that we've offered contracts to and then trade away. We’ve been very consistent and told our players that we won't be trading players out this season.”
The focus coming into the preseason, and rightly so, is making sure the players arriving feel comfortable, secure, and enabling them to build chemistry with one another without fear of losing half the squad to subsequent trades. From what we saw at availability, the chemistry is being built quickly. The energy wasn't just palpable, it was almost mesmerizing. Like being a fly around an electric fly trap. Inexplicably drawn to the bright aura, gravitating closer to the energy. Except, instead of ending in instant death, it was instead an instant boost of serotonin that covered you in exciting calmness.
In my opinion, building chemistry as a team is just as, and at times more important, than what gets done on the pitch. That doesn't mean everyone needs to be besties, but it does mean providing an environment where players feel comfortable and safe enough to express themselves freely. It’s an environment the club seems to be providing.
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