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3 observations on Angel City’s loss at OL Reign

Despite the result, there’s a lot to build on.

Nikita Taparia

Angel City FC are five games into their history, and with the somewhat softer platform of an NWSL Challenge Cup group stage to launch them, there have been some hard lessons.

Sunday’s 2-1 loss at OL Reign was a new kind of disappointment, with ACFC looking like they were set to post a hard-fought point on the road before conceding at the death in agonizing fashion. However, with a bit of time to think on the game, there’s largely positives coming out of the game, despite the result, believe it or not.

Defense reaches NWSL level

After three games in which Angel City were leaking goals in increasingly absurd fashion, the bye week due to the international break seemed to come not a moment too soon. While several players went on international duty in that time, the time to rest for the rest of the squad and ability to get back to basics in defense happened, and it worked out.

“I think we were much improved tonight in terms of our defending, especially in transition,” head coach Freya Coombe said after the match. “We have to look at our organized attack and perfect that to be able to make more of our entries into the final third and turn them into more attacking opportunities, especially inside the box.”

Frankly, against the top team in the group, on the road, prioritizing defense worked, and with Christen Press a late scratch due to entering COVID protocols, the main attacking weapon being absent left the team to focus on defense first and see what they could do from there. They did, and while they gave up two goals in Seattle, they looked composed and actually at an NWSL level for the first time, and that’s certainly something to build on.

Good debut for Reid

Part of the good defensive performance was good individual performances. Vanessa Gilles didn’t look exhausted and was composed in central defense. Jasmyne Spencer was terrific and provided most of the few attacking forays before the 75th minute from her fullback spot. Ali Riley played simply and effectively, and DiDi Haračić did the same in goal.

But the revelation on the day was Megan Reid, making her NWSL debut. Put in central defense alongside Gilles, the University of Virginia product was sharp and ready for the moment, playing smart for the full match and looking like she deserves more playing time. Remarkably, Reid is 25, had been playing in the amateur WPSL, and had a day job as an EMT. After starting training camp with San Diego Wave FC, she moved to Angel City and the rest, as they say, is history. If Reid can maintain this consistency moving forward, she’ll be a real diamond in the rough.

Endo coming on

Jun Endo was one of the exciting international additions for Angel City, and the Japanese international has been a fixture in the lineup so far. It’s easy to see why: Not only does she possess terrific technique as an attacker, but as she settles into a new league and team, her workrate is incredible. With Press largely serving as the main player to funnel the ball to in attack in the early weeks, for better and worse, Endo has found a way to drop back, provide an outlet for the oft-overrun midfield and pitch in on defensive responsibilities, too.

Her performance in Seattle was her best to date, and while she busied herself with trying to hold back a potent OL Reign attack for much of the game, she was the player who stepped up late to try and pull Angel City level and get a point. After nearly scoring on an audacious individual attempt, Endo kept the play going on the subsequent corner kick and provided the assist on Simone Charley’s goal to make it 1-1 late.

Missing Press, the team screamed out for a player to grab the game and try and get a result, and Endo did just that (until the very late concession, whoops). Endo looks like a baller, a gamer, whatever you want to call it. It looks like as she grows in confidence, she’s going to do her part on this team in one way or another, and that’s great.

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