Midweek Cup Match for scrappy Angel City team brings new opportunities in beating San Diego

Ethan Dumper

Story By Ethan Dumper

KidScoop Media Correspondent
Age 13

In the most recent game against San Diego at BMO Stadium, Madison Hammond scored her first goal for Angel City, to put them on top early. The build-up to the goal was a style we would become very familiar with as the night went on; a lofty ball over the back line for Jasmyne Spencer to collect, drive down the line and win the corner. The corner kick was whipped to the back of the goal where it was flicked into the air right in front of the goalie, and Hammond sprung off the line to fly in and head the ball over the keeper. Her head connected with the ball just in time because not a second after she hit the ball, the keeper came crashing down on her as the ball floated into the goal. “We have this phrase: ‘Scrappy = Happy,’” said Hammond after the match.

On Saturday, June 29, Angel City FC defeated their rival, the San Diego Wave, in an NWSL Challenge Cup match by a score of 2-1. This was Angel City’s second victory over San Diego in 10 days, and it continues interim head coach Becki Tweed’s undefeated streak with the club since she took over in mid-June, when Angel City parted ways with their inaugural coach, Freya Coombe. “Freya assumed the role of leading an expansion club with some of the most am- bitious goals in all of sports… After considerable deliberation and evaluation of where we are in our season, we have made the difficult decision to make a change. We sincerely wish Freya all the best, and she will forever hold an indelible place in Angel City’s history,” Angel City General Manager Angela Hucles Mangano said in a statement. Since that decision, Angel City has played four games, including two against San Diego, and has recorded two wins, two draws, and no losses.

Jasmyne Spencer started up front against San Diego and had a very productive match after playing in the back during former coach Freya Coombe’s stint at the club. She had the most chances created, the most successful dribbles, the most crosses, and won five tackles, while everybody else in the entire game had no more than one. She was aggressive, she won the corner kick that led to the opening goal, and she looked confident on the field.

“I’ve seen her love and her fit of the winger, and her fit really naturally in there, and I think she fits that role brilliantly for who we want to be,” said Coach Tweed of Spencer’s performance. Spencer was really fast, and had lots of plays where she took the ball down to the corner, and either played in a cross, or won a corner. Overall, this was a side of her that we had not seen before, and even though Allyssa Thompson will be returning to an attacking position after the international window, Jasmyne Spencer has proved that she can step in when she needs to and supply chances for Angel City.

Fifteen-year-old, Melanie Barcenas made her first ever start for San Diego, making her the youngest player to ever play in an NWSL match. She had a quiet yet productive game, with about 30 touches, and three shots, including two on target, which was the most out of anybody on San Diego that day, and the second most out of both teams. She came off the field in the 74th minute with a cramp.

“She’s an exceptional player… She should be really pleased with her debut, I am really pleased with her debut because she really showed that she could physically cope, and that was a big question mark beforehand, and I think she answered that tonight,” said San Diego Head Coach Casey Stoney. This was not only Barcenas’ first start, it was also her NWSL debut, and this chance came because currently other players are on international duty, meaning that San Diego was a little short on players, which gave Barcenas the chance to step up to the task.

The match was a mid-week game, in a tough three-game week, with Angel City playing on a Sunday, Wednesday, and the Sunday immediately after that, and San Diego playing on a Saturday, Wednesday, and Saturday immediately after. As if the three-game week was not challenging enough, many of both team’s top play- ers were unavailable to play, because they were called away on National Team duty, in preparation for the Women’s World Cup coming up in mid- July. Most notably, Angel City was missing Alyssa Thompson (USA) and Julie Ertz (USA), and San Diego was missing Alex Morgan (USA) among other players.

“The league is off. Why would you load a mid- week game in the middle of a 3 game week, in the middle of an international window? They really have to start talking to people who know the game and understand it,” exclaimed Wave head coach Stoney. This most recent stretch has been especially difficult for San Di- ego because they keep losing players to injury, lack of match fitness, and national team duty. They have now not won a single match in any competition in over a month. “I am extremely frustrated by the league’s schedule, and I hope it improves in the future.