Angel City Football Club took a jump last season, rallying from a dismal start to reach the NWSL playoffs.
With a lot of the familiar faces returning, and last season’s interim coach Becki Tweed fully in charge, Angel City is looking to make an even bigger leap this season and that’s to a championship club.
“I would say there is a more energized excitement going into this year,” Angel City general manager Angela Hucles Mangano said. “There’s a fresh feel I think with both the players and the staff.
“I think there’s a great dynamic that we have with our current staff, Becki having a preseason to start off this year after having the off-season to plan what she really wanted to set out from the beginning, from standards to expectations and really being able to build out this road map to winning an NWSL championship.”
Angel City found their continuity last season after coach Freya Coombe was fired. Tweed stepped in and led the club on an 11-game unbeaten streak and only one loss in the regular season, vaulting the team into fifth place and a spot in the playoffs.
To that fact, the club has a similar look as last season. Madison Hammond, Sarah Gorden, Clarisse LeBihan, Lily Nabet, Elizabeth Eddy all re-signed.
Six players (Scarlett Camberos, Savannah McCaskill, Dani Weatherholt, Brittany Isenhour and Simone Charley) have departed either via trade or free agent signing.
The club has signed a pair of teenagers (Gisele Thompson and Casey Phair), acquired a pair of veteran midfielders via trade (Raquel Rodriguez and Meggie Dougherty Howard), signed goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh and made three draft picks (Felicia Knox, Jessica Garziano and Madison Curry).
“The plan and goal was to be able to start this preseason with most, if not all of our pieces in place,” Mangano said.
Friday, Angel City added another piece, a big one, in second-year forward Messiah Bright in a trade with the Orlando Pride. Bright scored seven goals in all competitions last season.
“Messiah stepped into this league as a first time professional last season and demonstrated that she belonged,” Mangano said. “She has an uncanny ability to find the back of the net and we’re looking forward to seeing her do that in the Angel City uniform.”
One uncertainty is the availability of Christen Press. Press missed all of last season after suffering an ACL injury in 2022. She’s undergone four surgeries since then.
Thursday, she said in a social media message: “Hi folks! As you’ll see, I’m not yet in team training. Working hard everyday to get back and get ready for the season. Excited for what 2024 will bring! Thanks for the love …please keep it coming.”
“Christen’s a professional and her expectations are probably aligned with ours and that as soon as she’s able to play, she’ll be back in the squad and playing,” Mangano said. “That’s been her primary focus and job right now is getting her to a point where she can be healthy enough and fit to perform.
“She is very much part of our team and squad, she was here for the first few days of our opening meetings and team building sessions and is working extremely hard to be back and fit to form to perform for Angel City.”
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Angel City also returns Merritt Mathias, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Also, Amandine Henry will re-join the club after her loan ends at Lyon.
This week kicks off a long preseason for Angel City. The regular season doesn’t begin until March 16, but as year No. 3 takes shape, the ultimate goal is to be one of the final two teams playing in the NWSL Championship, Nov. 23.
“I was already excited before day one of training,” defender and captain Ali Riley said. “The group of players who have come into preseason have so much energy and are so committed. You can feel it already. … The training quality has been so good and just gets me so excited, optimistic and pumped up for the season.”