Angel City FC’s match this Saturday is as big as it’s going to get this season. There's already an NWSL record-setting crowd awaiting the debut of San Diego Wave’s new home, Snapdragon Stadium. This match isn't just a rivalry match, or the debut of a new stadium for the home side — while those things would have made it must-see television on its own — but a raise in stakes to include postseason livelihood as well.
While San Diego has been consistently the best team in the NWSL, spending most of the season atop the standings, they've seen their top spot fade in recent matches. They may still be in the top three, but with five points standing between playoff prosperity, and a disappointing end to the season, they will undoubtedly be hunting for all the wins they can get down the final stretch.
However, if you expect the other expansion side, Angel City, to fold under the pressure of what is setting up to be the biggest night of the 2022 season, think again. They may be new to the league, but when it comes to playing in the big matches, this is just one in what has been a season filled with big moments.
Angel City FC sold over 15,400 season tickets before their first game.— Front Office Sports (@FOS) April 30, 2022
Last night, they won their home-opener in front of a sold-out crowd of 22,000 pic.twitter.com/r8ywudfmqM
If we’re talking big crowds, this team plays in front of them each time they play in LA. Before even kicking a ball, the club sold over 15,000 season tickets, and when the time came to really show out, LA welcomed their newest team with sell-out of The Banc, exploding with over 22,000 fans. That was just the start.
Since then, Angel City has averaged close to 18,000 fans for home matches, with several occasions drawing in even bigger crowds. The fact that this rivalry match has already announced enough tickets sold — 32,000 — to easily break the NWSL record for attendance at a single match, will only motivate ACFC, it definitely doesn’t scare them.
Now, the moment is more than just the amount of fans. See, this is essentially a second home opener for San Diego, another reason to celebrate the arrival of NWSL in San Diego, this time with an even bigger venue. Surely, all of those Wave fans will send shivers down the spines of the LA outfit. Nope. Being on the wrong end of all those fans is nothing new, and surprisingly, they got a taste of it at their own stadium!
Recently, the team hosted the Mexico National Team in what is set to be a yearly exhibition match, the Copa Angelina. Even the most basic of soccer knowledge and geography will tell you LA is the official second home to Mexico anything, but especially soccer.
In a shocking turn of events to absolutely nobody, the crowd during that match went from supportive parent watching both children play against one another just hoping everyone has fun, to quickly picking favorites.
Unfortunately for ACFC, Mexico was the favorite and the atmosphere quickly turned relatively hostile considering no home side expects their crowd to cheer against them. However, the team had a positive outlook on it, with ACFC forward Jasmyne Spencer explaining that all energy is useful energy. “You feed off the energy whether they’re for or against you. It’s just incredible to play in a stadium that’s loud and vibrant.”
Loud and vibrant is exactly what the team can expect as well. The last time these two faced off, Angel City was able to take advantage of the short-handed Wave, and came away with the 2-1 win at home. Now though, the match means even more. With just a few matches left in the regular season ACFC are straddling must-win territory if they want to sneak into the playoffs in year one. That’s the biggest story going into this one. For as fun as stadium openers can be, with all the excitement also comes a lot of emotions, and with playoffs on the line, Saturday will come down to who can handle all those emotions the best. Luckily for us, San Diego will have to navigate the newness of this type of moment, while Angel City was born in it, as they say. Molded by it.
The toughest part of Saturday will be facing San Diego at their current strength. ACFC has faced some tough opponents, not just within the NWSL, but against Mexico's National team as well as an exhibition against top LIGA MX Femenil side, Tigres UANL, but rivalry matches are different, especially when one side is looking for revenge. In a lot of ways, Saturday night will be the match Angel City has prepared for all year. The sold-out crowds, the exhibition matches, facing tough competition and dealing with hostile crowds. All of that has helped prepare them for Saturday. With a playoff spot on the line, bragging rights, a chance at a regular season sweep, but more importantly, a chance to once again put their best foot forward on a night that feels like the entire world will be watching. Regardless, it will be a night that will continue to push the game forward.
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