Angel City FC continues playoff pursuit with trip to North Carolina

The Angel City Football Club kicked off the busiest stretch of its season with an important point in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Houston.

The point moves Angel City (7-5-5, 26 points) one behind the Chicago Red Stars (7-5-6) for the sixth and final playoff berth in the 12-team league with a game in hand. There are just six points separating Angel City and first-place Kansas City (9-4-5).

No first-year expansion club has ever made the playoffs in the NWSL, but third-place San Diego Wave FC (9-6-4, 31 points) and Angel City are attempting to change that.

“I think it’s a big achievement for the club,” Angel City coach Freya Coombe said of the club being in playoff contention in its inaugural season. “Obviously we’re looking to get into the playoffs and then look to see what we can do.

“As an expansion club, in our first year, with some of the injuries that we’ve had and some of the setbacks, it’s absolutely brilliant that we’re in that contention for the playoffs and I’m really proud of the group and our ability to deal with adversity in order to get there.”

Angel City’s three-game, seven-day road trip continues Wednesday night in North Carolina for a makeup date with the Courage (6-7-4, 22 points). The teams were scheduled to face each other in July, but the match was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.

Angel City, which is riding a five-game unbeaten streak (2-0-3), concludes this stretch Saturday night in San Diego, then heads home for its final two home games (Sept. 21 and 25) of the regular season.

“We’re excited that we completely control our destiny in terms of being able to close that stretch with two home games and come back and have our supporters on our side to lift us and push us through the tough end of it,” defender Jasmyne Spencer said.

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Angel City and North Carolina met in the season opener on April 29 with Angel City winning, 2-1.

BACKUP HELP ON THE WAY

Angel City made it through the Houston match with only one goalkeeper (starter DiDi Haracic). Backup Almuth Schult was held out due to a non-COVID illness and third-string goalkeeper Brittany Isenhour remained in L.A. at a fan event.

Fortunately for Angel City, it didn’t need to replace Haracic. Coombe said Sunday that the team was flying in Isenour to join the team for the rest of the trip.

Defender M.A. Vignola was also held out of Sunday’s match due to a non-COVID illness.