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Angel City FC: An early look at 2023

With the draft this week, here’s what to keep in mind for ACFC in 2023.

NWSL: Angel City FC at Racing Louisville FC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

You feel that? That hype inside you building, the anticipation growing, the hopefulness of a brand new season. While it will officially be year two for Angel City FC in the NWSL, it still has that inaugural season feel. The excitement for this team is still very much alive, and after the injury-riddled season that was last year, many are hopeful we can finally see what this roster looks like with everyone healthy and working at their peak. Before all that though, we have the NWSL Draft, which is just days away and after recent moves, Angel City has put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat as they prepare for their second season.

Draft Day ‘23

Let’s start there. The first real bit of league business for ACFC heading into the new season. Up until just about a week ago, Angel City sat No. 5 as their top pick in the draft order. Then, they sent shockwaves throughout the NWSL when they announced a four-team trade with tons of moving parts, a condition controversy, and the LA side ending up the number one pick in the draft when it was all said and done. The last two top picks in the draft have been defenders, but that looks to change this year with the two top prospects both being forwards.

While it won't be official until draft day, the leading consensus is that Angel City will snag 18-year-old Wonderkid Alyssa Thompson, who has already burst onto the International scene after a strong finish to 2022 with U.S. Women’s National Team. Adding her to an attack with a healthy Christen Press, a fully settled-in Claire Emslie, Jun Endo and a healthy Sydney Leroux seems almost unfair, but Angel City did struggle to find the back of the net consistently, which Thompson can help with. Still, the one thing this league is known for is pure chaos, and when you think you have it all figured out, is when the chaos peaks most.

Healthier in body and mind

We have reached the stage where videos of players training have surfaced, and it has been more than encouraging to see the progress from those who spent most if not all of 2022 sidelined with injuries. That is perhaps the most exciting part of the season ahead, getting to see the team all together and healthy, for what we hope, is an entire NWSL season. Last year star defender Sarah Gorden was injured before the season began, and we only saw Press for eight matches before she went down. The team never quit fighting, and nearly found themselves sneaking into the playoffs despite it all.

Which is something else to keep in mind for year two. That oh-so-valued experience has hit this squad and everyone has received a plus one to their attributes for 2023. There were several players who had standout seasons either as rookies to the league, or having to navigate an entire season playing out of position. Everything learned, good, difficult, and otherwise, will be incredibly helpful going into year two. Even Head Coach Freya Coombe has likely learned valuable lessons, as she ended the season remarking on her plans to better improve not just tactically but in rotation to help keeper players a bit fresher throughout the season. If we see that growth throughout the squad, from top to bottom, in year two, this could end up being a season to remember.

What even are the expectations?

Nearly reaching the postseason in their inaugural year, it wasn't like the 2022 campaign was a failure. Far from it, yet there was still very much a part of everyone that felt disappointed. Mostly due to not getting a chance to see what this roster looked like at its full potential. Still, seeing how close the team came to reaching the playoffs despite the obstacles they faced, it wouldn't be too much to say that the floor for 2023 has to be a postseason appearance, right?

In theory, the team only improves with those returning, in addition to the fact the club sit with the first overall selection in the NWSL College Draft. A choice of two, potentially franchise-changing talents, a chance to prepare for the future while also adding the talent to help win now. Of course, everyone will talk about wanting to win the championship, as they should, but with reigning champions Portland Thorns not getting any worse, and the team who lost to them in the Finals, KC Current, getting immensely better, it would be a tough ask in year two of the franchise, However, this is a team that, should they remain relatively healthy, should finish in the top five.

In the end, the most important thing the club has to do this year is build on the foundation already set. They have done an excellent job at getting the support and attention of the city, now its time to keep it. With plenty of time for predictions and season goals, this is the time of year where we can just enjoy Angel City being back. Enjoy another season of NWSL in Los Angeles, and in a couple of days, enjoy watching the club make their first-ever first round pick. Welcome, to year two!

How are you feeling about the new season? Thoughts on where the team finishes? Leave a comment below!