One of the storylines of the NWSL season so far has been the initial success of star American forwards at the California expansion teams. With Alex Morgan leading the Golden Boot charts with a career year at San Diego Wave FC and Christen Press carrying Angel City FC’s attack until an unfortunate season-ending knee injury, it’s pretty likely counterparts around the league like Sydney Leroux were watching the surges for her old teammates from afar.
Now, Leroux is part of that group and will hope for a similar new team bounce, as she became Angel City’s newest player last week, brought in to effectively replace Press for the remainder of the 2022 season and hopefully to build a potent production line with her once Press returns from her torn ACL.
Leroux came off the bench for her ACFC debut, Saturday’s 1-1 draw against the Portland Thorns, and got a huge ovation in a city she’s called home for quite some time.
“I feel like I’m coming back home,” Leroux, a UCLA product, told reporters after the match. “I feel so welcome in LA and even when I was playing last time here for Mother’s Day, I felt like it was a home game just because I had been here for so long. And I’m just happy that I get to play here now.”
Leroux has already scored in an Angel City game at The Banc...for the other team. The Mother’s Day game she referenced was when she played ACFC with Orlando Pride and scored an early winner which stood in a 1-0 outcome for the visitors.
But in the meantime, Orlando, undergoing a rebuild this year under new coach Amanda Cromwell, saw Cromwell suspended while an investigation began related to allegations she and assistant coach Sam Greene had engaged in violations of league rules regarding retaliation. That investigation and the suspensions remain ongoing for the moment, the team stuck in limbo.
Perhaps related, Pride defender Amy Turner’s contract was bought out, and that appeared to be the final straw on hope in 2022 for the Pride, with Leroux and others publicly coming out to support Turner during a rocky saga to end her tenure with the club.
As a result, and with Press, the focal point of Angel City’s attack, out for the year, the expansion team worked to get Leroux to keep their push for a playoff berth alive. Angel City sent Orlando $75,000 in allocation money and a 2024 NWSL first-round draft pick in exchange. Leroux is under contract through the 2023 season, with an option year in 2024, per The Mane Land.
“It’s been a very quick process of her arriving in Los Angeles and being available to the club,” Angel City head coach Freya Coombe said after Friday’s match. “She had very little time to be with our group, but it was a great reception for her and the team is happy to have her here. We’re looking forward to more things to come when we are able to put in some work on the training field and have her properly integrated.”
“The week was crazy,” Leroux said on her first half-week with the team. “I feel like the last three days have been a blur, but I’m so excited to be here. The atmosphere is amazing. The last 30 seconds were unfortunate and we need to be better there, but I’m super excited for the future. The night was unbelievable, and I felt very welcome and my family felt welcome. I’m excited to give Angel City everything that I have.”
Leroux has two goals and an assist in the regular season this year, and her career-best in scoring in the NWSL was back in 2013, when she had 11 goals for the Boston Breakers. Part of a three-headed attack for much of her run in Orlando alongside Morgan and Marta, there has to be some hope Leroux can score more freely as the focal point of Angel City’s attack this season, much how Morgan has flourished in a change of scenery and new role herself in California.
For now, Leroux becomes another marquee name and face of the club, while enjoying the rabid support of Los Angeles soccer fans and hopes she can bring the necessary goals to the team without having to get carried away with expectations in the debut season.
“I think we’re in a really good position,” she said. “I think we need to push, and we need to be able to close out games. We know we gave up two points, but I think we can build off that leading into the next game. But I’m excited just to get settled. I think that’ll feel nice.”
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