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Don’t panic: Angel City FC just getting started

Rough start to the preseason, but that’s what it’s for

NWSL: Angel City FC at San Diego Wave FC Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

There’s probably no team in the NWSL happier to see a brief respite in the run-up to the season than expansion side, Angel City FC. After a draw in their inaugural match, things haven't been exactly smooth sailing for the new club. After the 1-1 draw to begin their NWSL voyage, dark clouds rolled in and rough weather hit. Hard.

The following three matches were not just losses for ACFC, but they were outscored a combined scoreline of 10-3. They’ve yet to really hit their stride, and it’s obvious they have yet to really settle into a true identity. A style of play that fits them as players individually, and helps the team as a whole find success. What's more, as a team in title-hungry LA, the talk from some around this team is already along the “what’s wrong with them” lines, which, even for this city, is a bit much.

If you thought this was some gloomy post about how bad the team has done so far, and how expectations need to be tempered all the way back down to near zero, you're wrong. Cause this ain’t that. Count me as one of the people who has plenty of thoughts on how the NWSL Challenge Cup is viewed, and how it should be taken far more serious than it is currently. However, I’m also not naive, and understand almost every team — but especially the two expansion sides still trying to figure literally everything out — is taking this tournament as a glorified preseason. A chance to try tactics, integrate players into systems, and get familiar with one another. Even more so this season as we saw a ton of off-season movement from both players and coaches.

Even still, after two years of build-up, two years of hype and anticipation. Plenty went into the season feeling good about ACFC’s chances at shocking the world and coming away with a trophy in year one. Those hopes were quickly stomped on and thrown into a blender, as the realities of life in the NWSL hit like a ton of bricks.

Before a ball was even kicked off, injuries threw a wrench in the early planning for ACFC. Superstar defender, Sarah Gorden, was announced to have had a knee injury, keeping her sidelined for “a period of time.” Once the tournament did get underway, Angel City found themselves in the midst of a tough stretch, having to play three matches — against a couple of the league’s better, more experienced sides — over the course of seven days.

“We know that this league is very transitional. When we look at the players that have started in this league and play consistently in this league in the transitional game, our center backs are relatively new in terms of this league, and being able to experience that transitional nature. It’s a bit of a lack of time” said Head Coach Freya Coombe after their latest loss against SoCal rivals, San Diego Wave. “We conceded three against Portland and then we’ve been on the road ever since and not had a training session with our backline in order to put things right. Ultimately, we do need time to work together and to coach it and to train it.”

Time. The most precious commodity in our existence. Two years. Two years of hype, identity establishment, community building, anticipation. Yet, only weeks for the players to come together, train, and find cohesiveness. That just isn't enough time. This isn't a bad team by any metric. They have done well to find chances, they consistently create space, and have plenty of moments that leave you jaw dropped. The midfield is lacking and the defense could use some refinement, but this isn't a bad team, they just need time.

So, let's give them that time. If you’re one of those already worried about this squad. Already asking what's wrong, and looking deeper than need be to find problems, then respectfully, go get some fresh air. The NWSL may have started, but it hasn't truly begun. It won't take long for things to click for this side, and when they do, you're talking about a roster filled with incredible talent. All this team needs is time to figure out how to turn those individual moments of greatness, into a string of great moments as a whole. Once that happens, not even the sky will limit this team.

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