Preview: Angel City FC at Washington Spirit | May 15, 202205.13.22
Angel City takes on the Washington Spirit at 2:00 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) on Sunday, May 15 at Audi Field in Washington, DC. The match will stream live on Paramount+.
Last week, Angel City fell 0–1 at home to the Orlando Pride. Forward Sydney Leroux scored the lone goal of the match, in the third minute, when Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir found her at the far post with a low cross. Leroux had an open shot on goal and one-timed the ball, which deflected off Megan Reid's leg as she attempted a block, and hit the back of the net. The goal was not ruled an own goal by Reid, as it would have gone in regardless.
It was a performance that the team agrees was not their best. "I think as we saw, starting strong in North Carolina [on April 29] set us up for success," midfielder Dani Weatherholt told media this week. "So not starting strong against Orlando put us in a tough position."
A key going into the weekend will be "trusting each other that if we go down a goal early, we can get the goal back," Weatherholt continued. "I think as a team we were stressed about getting the goal back [against Orlando], but we could have settled in a lot sooner and got on the ball more."
The Spirit are the league's current champions, having beaten the Chicago Red Stars last year in the playoff final. Their most recent match was the Challenge Cup final against the North Carolina Courage, which they lost 2–1 following a 10th-minute goal by forward Kerolin and a 70th-minute own goal by Spirit midfielder Taylor Aylmer. Forward Ashley Hatch notched Washington's lone goal, in the 35th minute.
For midfielder Savannah McCaskill, it will be crucial to "execute on the little things," she said this week. "The little details to put us in the position to then go on and have special moments, and score big goals, and win the game. If we focus on continuing to be consistent with the things that we can control, I think that puts us in a good position for the weekend."
This Sunday's match will be the first ever between Angel City and the reigning champs, and it's a challenge Weatherholt says the team is ready for. "They are such a talented group, especially their front line," she said. "But for us, I think we're just trying to focus on ourselves, and I think there's a lot of things that we do right... It's going to be a big challenge for us, but I think a good one, and another step in our learning opportunity."
Washington is a largely young squad, led by a dynamic scoring trio of Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez, and Trinity Rodman. Last year Hatch won the golden boot, scoring 10 goals in the regular season, while Rodman, just 19 years old and last season's Rookie of the Year, has become one of the most exciting scoring threats in the league. She's also dangerous as a creator, having lead the league with seven assists (on top of her seven goals) in 2021.
To contain that front line, head coach Freya Coombe said Angel City will have to stay compact out of possession and limit Washington's space in the attack. "Being able to control the space is going to be really important, having compactness between the lines," she said this week. "We need to disrupt their buildout so it's not completely comfortable, you know, but those players are capable of being, you know, when they're on, actually brilliant in their individual one-v-one battles and in some cases, a one-v-two, where they're taking on multiple players from the team."
In particular, Coombe continued, the defense will have to keep an eye on Hatch. "She's a good finisher with her feet and also in the air. So I think that's going to be important, that we make sure that she's picked up at all times."
Washington's talent isn't just on the offensive side. One exception to the team's youth is veteran defender Kelley O'Hara, an athletic attacking outside back who adds as much value on the ball as off it. O'Hara notched the Spirit's game-winning overtime goal in last year's championship. And in goal, Washington's Aubrey Kingsbury was named Goalkeeper of the Year.
Several Angel City players used to play for the Spirit. Defender Jasmyne Spencer was on their roster for the league's inaugural 2013 season; goalkeeper DiDi Haračić and defender Paige Nielsen in 2017–2018 and 2019–2021, respectively.