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Kissing the badge, taking the points, Angel City FC ride high after rivalry win

Emotions were riding high, but ACFC harnessed them.

Brenton Tse

Angel City FC sure know how to rise to the occasion.

In the second tentpole event of their inaugural regular season, Angel City welcomed fellow expansion side San Diego Wave FC to The Banc and outlasted their Southern Californian foe in a wild 2-1 win on Saturday.

The tone was set in the opening minutes by Angel City captain Ali Riley, who scored her first-ever goal in the NWSL to give the home team the early lead.

The left back made the most of her goal celebration, both jumping for joy...

...followed by literally kissing the badge while running back to the center circle.

Obviously the rivalry is new, with two new teams, but seeing Riley’s passion in the opening minutes, and in particular, kissing the badge, is the kind of iconic memory these matches need. The Los Angeles native, the club’s first captain, she cares about this team, this rivalry, this game.

That emotion has quickly endeared her to the fans.

“I think this rivalry will set new standards and push the league further. We’ve been setting the bar and now I think we’re showing that there’s an audience and a market for this. Invest in us. I look at all the people who care about women’s soccer, not just in Southern California, but I’m pretty happy that it happened here and we got the win tonight,” Riley told reporters after the game.

While Angel City dominated play in the first half, with a sellout crowd seeming to push San Diego well out of their comfort zone in the first 45, the visitors came roaring back in the 2nd half. After Kristen McNabb tied the game for San Diego, the teams traded momentum swings in the dying minutes. After it looked like Angel City conceded control for good after Tyler Lussi picked up a red card in the 79th minute, they almost immediately found a gamewinner, as debutant Claire Emslie hit an impressive go-ahead goal in the 81st minute.

Emslie got a “shadow assist” from the other newcomer to the team, Sydney Leroux, who dummied the pass that made its way to the Scottish international on the goal. With those attackers providing an instant boost to the team, and beating the league leaders in a rivalry game, Angel City look like they’ve raised their ceiling for 2022.

Once again, Angel City look like they can feed off emotion exceptionally well.

“It reminded me of our first home game because it wasn’t just about the soccer competition. It was about making history at The Banc again,” said Riley. “I thought all day about how incredible it is to not just have one team in Southern California, but to now have two. We haven’t had that before and it’s not something I was able to see when I was growing up.”

Moving forward, Angel City will need to find that consistency to maintain their spot in the playoff spots, but they passed the first big home regular season rivalry clash with flying colors.

“I described it as ‘another wild night at the Banc.’ I absolutely love it,” said ACFC head coach Freya Coombe after the game. “The roar when Claire Emslie scored her goal tonight sums it up. I have mentioned all week that we wanted to score a goal in the North End in front of our supporters groups. They deserved it. They have been so good the whole year. It is important that we start to do it at that end [of the stadium] and thank the fans for coming and their support.”

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