I can now cross another professional league off my bucket list of those whose games I’ve attended in person. Thanks to my friend’s wonderful charity organization Walk n’ Rollers and their fundraising event, I got to see Angel City FC, the second-year entry in the still-fledgling National Women’s Soccer League, open a two-match homestand against the Kansas City Current, who lost last year’s league title match to the team that had most recently defeated them, the Portland Thorns.
For the record, the game was exciting, and I’ll get to the results shortly. For me, it was an all-too-rare opportunity of late to find a way to affordably get out to a match with a friend who actually was still willing to go to a stadium, meet some new friends along the way, soak up the sun and feel the vibe of human beings enjoying world-class athletes perform as much for the joy of competition than the money at stake.
The NWSL has had its challenges in its short life. Several teams were plagued by scandals that resulted in personnel including owners being removed. The Current were not one of those who were, and when Angel City and San Diego brought the league to California as expansion franchises last year it was seen as a way for the league to potentially find a new and more positive path.
One could not have found a better advertisement for that new path that the scene I saw yesterday. I was part of more than 19,000 fans watching in a state-of-the-art stadium which Angel City shared with current MLS champion LAFC. Many young families, moms and dads with daughters, dads and daughters, two-mom families with their pronounneutral offspring. Diverse, with nary a prejuidical person to be found, And cheering loudly, because there’s no language barrier for smiles. And, clearly, a far younger crowd than I’ve seen anywhere else, including MLS matches.
Perhaps the potential for this league was best exemplified by the young family I sat next to. When the adorable child at the top of this page out of nowhere asked me why I had no hair, I knew I had a new friend. She quickly told me her name was Ivy, and when prompted by her mom she enthusiastically told me her age. “Three!”, she exclaimed. I asked her if she could guess my age. She paused, gave it a thought and then quizzically asked “Twenty?” “Sure, I’ll take that”, I said. “Thirty?!?!”, she continued. “I’ll take that too”, I confessed. “INFINITY!!”, she trimumphantly followed up with. “Somewhere in between that and thirty is what I’ll admit to.
Ivy and I then got to watch Angel City play its best 15 minutes of the young season to date and then some, as THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER’s Damien Calhoun reported:
There is no such thing as a comfortable lead in the NWSL and certainly not for Angel City Football Club and Sunday was another reminder.
With a three-goal lead at halftime against the Kansas City Current, things got interesting quickly in the second half as the Current responded with two goals. The good news for Angel City (2-2-2, eight points) is that the Current never scored a third goal, allowing ACFC to record the 3-2 win.
In the 31st minute, Alyssa Thompson scored for the second consecutive week, beating her defender in a 1-on-1, cutting back and shooting and tucking the ball inside the far post. Claire Emslie finished a Jun Endo cross with a sliding tap-in in the 43rd minute and early in added time, Madison Hammond set up Endo for the goal and a 3-0 lead before halftime.
What I’ll remember most is that when that third goal was scored, I turned to my new friend Ivy and said “They scored one goal for every year you’ve been alive!!!’. Had they tried to match my age in scoring, I fear they’d still be playing right now.
As the tension wore on after the Current drew close, sunset was approaching and, sadly, so was Ivy’s bedtime. But her older brother Elliott was equally invested and when Mom started to insist that they leave with 15 minutes still remaining, Elliott doth protested enough to convince his dad and her that he was old enough (six!) to hold out. Because he’s that much of a fan and, yep, male, too. So Dad took Ivy in his arms, offered to drive their car to the gate, and Mom and son and their new friend held down the fort.
So Elliott sat next to me and we gritted our teeth as ACFC goalie Didi Haračić and her teammates thwarted every attempt at an equalizer. Elliott got to learn about extra time.
And this childless, family-deprived soccer fan got to experience once more what is was like to share a few minutes of family fun at a sporting event. And a bunch of high fives were exchanged.
I haven’t had that enjoyable a day in a long time. And REALLY needed it yesterday (as I do most days).
So I dedicate this entry to the wonderful young family I got to share this joy and ACFC’s first home win of 2023 with. The fabulous organization that got me there (their website is below and, yes, you can donate just like I did). And the 19.000 other folks who know what it’s like to have family fun on a gorgeous spring day, an art sadly lost on far too many of those I’ve known who are still far too afraid to even step aside, let alone into a stadium.
Yes, Maurice, you were right. Thank heavens for little girls. For without them, what would little boys do? Or even slightly less little ones like moi.