Angel City's struggles follow them into Olympic break with loss to Gotham FC

The seven-week Olympic break couldn’t come at a better time for Angel City FC. With Saturday’s 2-1 loss to NJ/NY Gotham FC, the team has lost three straight, has won just once in nine games and has scored just once in its last 275 minutes.

At a time when it should be climbing the standings, Angel City is falling.

“Nobody wants to sit here with four wins,” coach Becki Tweed said. “The group is disappointed. The best part with this league is that you can’t be disappointed for very long. You have to move forward and you have to move on.

“We have a real opportunity in the second half of the season. It has to be ‘what do we want from the season?’ Like, ‘how are we going to show up?’ We’ve got to move on from it really quickly.”

Quickly might be a relative term because Angel City doesn’t play another NWSL game until Aug. 24. In the meantime, the pressure will be on Tweed and her staff to figure out exactly what has gone wrong.

“It’s frustrating when the pieces don’t just fit exactly together,” captain Ali Riley said. “One thing that can’t be questioned is the effort. So the quality of that final pass, the quality of the shot, tracking a runner, those pieces have to be called out. We have to take ownership of it. And we have to be better.

“If whoever’s on the field isn’t doing it, then someone else will get that opportunity. I think we’ll see that in the second half of the season.”

They saw it last season, when Tweed replaced Freya Coombe as coach in mid-June with the team in 11th place. Under Tweed, Angel City went unbeaten in 10 of its final 11 NWSL games and clinched a playoff berth on the final day of the season.

Angel City (4-9-3) heads into the break in 11th again but just three points out of a playoff spot with 10 games left. With the transfer window opening during the break, Tweed expects the team to look different when it returns to NWSL play.

She’s almost assured of getting forward Christian Press back from a two-year absence because of an anterior cruciate ligament tear, and the coach is expecting more additions as well.

“I’d be surprised if you didn’t see every team trying to bring players in in this window,” she said. “Everybody’s growing. Everybody’s adding players in every window.

“This is a good opportunity for us to have a little reset, a little refresh. Everybody needs this break to take some time away mentally and physically, and we have to come back with the attitude, the energy, the desire, the grittiness that we brought in the second half of last season.”

Or the second half of Saturday’s game. After giving up first-half goals to Rose Lavelle and Delanie Sheehan, Angel City played an inspired second 45 minutes, halving the deficit on Claire Emslie’s penalty-kick goal in the 69th minute, but getting no closer.

Lavelle, who was dangerous for most of her 60 minutes, gave Gotham (9-3-4) the lead in the 16th minute following a quick, five-pass sequence that left her alone in the middle of the box for an easy finish.

Sheehan, a Hermann Trophy semifinalist at UCLA, doubled the lead just before halftime, scoring into an empty net after Ella Stevens drew Angel City keeper DiDi Haracic to the top of the six-yard box, then left-footed a low pass to a wide-open Sheehan for her first goal of the season.

Emslie’s team-leading sixth goal came after Gisele Thompson was taken down in the box by Gotham’s Mandy Freeman, drawing the foul that led to the penalty. But the goal was a costly one — Thompson left BMO Stadium wearing a protective boot on her right foot.

Haracic matched a regular-season career high with seven saves.

The crowd, announced at 16,542, was the smallest of the season and the second-smallest in Angel City history. The team came into the weekend leading the league in average home attendance at 19,865.

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