The Los Angeles-based Angel City FC, one of the only female-founded and run professional sports teams in the world, enters the 2023 season looking to build momentum after last year’s first season.
In 2022, the club, led by an ownership group that includes luminaries such as actor and activist Natalie Portman and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, finished with the second-best record (8-9-5) of any expansion team in league history and averaged a league-leading 19,105 fans per game.
Last year’s limited attacking options became evident once its first marquee acquisition — forward Christen Press, the two-time U.S. World Cup winner — suffered a season-ending ACL injury during a game in June. The club proceeded to sign experienced forward Sydney Leroux, a 2015 U.S. World Cup winner, a few weeks later to cover the gap, but the 32-year-old only scored twice.
Angel City FC turned to the 2023 NWSL draft for help. It traded for the first overall pick, which it used to select Alyssa Thompson, the youngest player ever selected in the NWSL draft. The 18-year-old prodigy played for Total Futbol Academy's boys team in MLS Next.
Following her second and final high school season at Harvard-Westlake, Thompson was named Gatorde National Player of the Year after scoring 48 goals in 17 games. In 2022, she was part of the U.S. team at the U-20 Women’s World Cup. She made her debut with the senior U.S. women’s national team last October — at 17 years and 334 days old the youngest player to debut for the USA since Mallory Pugh in January 2016 at 17 years and 269 days.
In addition to Thompson, Angel City drafted goalkeeper Angelina Anderson out of Cal with the 27th pick. The starting goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national team at the 2018 U-17 Women’s World Cup, Anderson was a Pac-12 Goalkeeper and Freshman of the Year.
To ensure its defense would stay solid this year, the club re-signed veteran defenders Jasmyne Spencer, Megan Reid and Paige Nielsen. It then reinforced this area of the field by trading forward Tyler Lussi to the Carolina Courage in exchange for defender Merritt Mathias, who, like Spencer, has played in the NWSL since its founding 10 years ago. However, Angel City will be without two defenders to begin the season as Canadian Vanessa Gilles is on loan to French club Lyon until June 2023, and Jamaican international Allyson Swaby is on a six-month loan to Paris Saint-Germain.
The midfield is going to have a slightly different look this season as it traded 20-game starter Cari Roccaro to the Chicago Red Stars for $65,000 allocation money. In comes former Mexican international Katie Johnson, a sixth-year forward/midfielder who played with the San Diego Wave last season.
Angel City also bolstered Coach Freya Coombe’s coaching staff, hiring new assistant coaches Becki Tweed and Melissa Phillips. Tweed was an assistant coach for Gotham FC the last three seasons, while first assistant Phillips last served as head coach of the London City Lionesses of the Women's Championship League, the second tier of English women’s soccer.
Sarah Smith comes on-board as the club’s new Director of Medical and Performance.
"This year we want to win a championship," returning forward Claire Emslie said amid Angel City's preseason training at its practice facility at California Lutheran University. "That's why I'm here, that's why I moved over. I've got this time now, in preseason, to gel with the other girls. I want to build those relationships, learn people's runs, learn people's tendencies, so I can play better with them and link better with them."
Angel City FC Roster:
Goalkeepers: Angelina Anderson (Cal-Berkeley), DiDi Harai, Brittany Isenhour.
Defenders: Vanessa Gilles, Sarah Gorden, Madison Hammond, Merritt Mathias (Carolina Courage), Paige Nielsen, Megan Reid, Ali Riley, Allyson Swaby, M.A. Vignola
Midfielders: Katie Johnson (San Diego Wave), Clarisse Le Bihan, Savannah McCaskill, Lily Nabet, Dani Weatherholt
Forwards: Simone Charley, Claire Emslie, Jun Endo, Sydney Leroux, Christen Press, Jasmyne Spencer, Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy).
• bold = 2023 acquisitions.