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Press lifts Angel City past Spirit; Wave stay top with win over Chicago – Equalizer Soccer



Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The National Women’s Soccer League’s two expansion teams sit atop the table after Week 3 following Sunday victories for Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC. Alex Morgan scored again to help San Diego stay perfect through three games, while Christen Press scored in Washington, D.C., to lift Angel City to its first road win in franchise history.

The Skinny: Angel City earned there first ever win away from home in a strong performance against the reigning NWSL Champions that saw them shut down the Spirit’s high octane offense while Christen Press scored the winner.

One Key Moment: This one is obvious, it is Press’ game winner and first regular season goal for Angel City. The individual skill to settle the long ball, get around her defender, drive at the defense and then find the back of the net from what seemed like an impossible angle is, simply put, impressive.

Inside the Game: Coming into this game Angel City had limited defensive options with Ali Riley out in COVID protocol, this led to the decision to play Tyler Lussi, typically an attacker, at left back. This move worked out quite well for LA as Lussi has the pure pace and soccer intelligence to keep up with Trinity Rodman. Rodman, typically so deadly to her opponents, was kept quiet throughout the match as she had to put in a ton of defensive work on Press and Lussi who in turn combined to shut her down.

The match was fairly even statistically but the particularly interesting fact is that Washington were held to just 9 shots the entire match, only one of which was on target. Those shots only combined for an xG (expected goals) of 0.65, based on the StatsPerform model, indicating the lower quality of the chances. Angel City’s xG was even lower but Press’ individual magic prevailed over the numerical probabilities.

Some good news in terms of roster for Angel City though, their French international signing Clarisse Le Bihan made her debut and did not look out of place. In defense, Paige Nielsen made her long awaited return from injury which will only strengthen their backline moving forward.

The Goals:

  1. Angel City FC – Christen Press (Vannessa Gilles), 42’

— Bella Munson

San Diego Wave FC 2, Chicago Red Stars 1

The Skinny: In the first ever meeting between the San Diego Wave and the Chicago Red Stars, San Diego took home the win, holding onto the lead even through a slight stoppage-time surge from Chicago.

One Key Moment: Early in the second half, San Diego’s Sofia Jakobsson went down in the box and Alex Morgan did her job on the subsequent penalty kick, putting the Wave up 1-0. Before this goal, this game looked like it could belong to either side; afterwards, however, San Diego’s confidence sharpened, and Chicago ultimately couldn’t catch up. The tally was Morgan’s fifth of the season after scoring a league record-tying four goals last week against Gotham FC.

Inside the Game: The word of the evening was “game-changer.” The leadup to the match was shaped by uncertainty on Chicago’s side, with so many significant players on the injured list, and it was clear the Red Stars would need someone to shake things up. Who that person would be, however, remained unclear.

And ultimately, a game-changer never totally emerged from Chicago’s side; rather, the first, and perhaps biggest shake-up came from a 33rd-minute substitution for San Diego, when Jakobsson went on for an injured Amirah Ali. Jakobsson immediately turned the engines on for San Diego’s front line and helped force Chicago to play a defensive game to finish out the half, a slightly different look from the extremely even nature of the game up until then. 

Jakobsson and Morgan didn’t necessarily connect in the first half, but in the 56th minute, Jakobsson was fouled in the penalty box and Morgan took the penalty kick, rewarding San Diego with not only a goal but the energy needed to essentially govern the rest of the game.

For most of the second half, Chicago struggled to generate attacking opportunities and didn’t look hungry for the ball, and this modesty ultimately led to another Wave goal in the 89th minute from Kaleigh Riehl, but was then almost immediately chased by a Chicago goal from Ava Cook. The game’s chaotic last few minutes were exciting, with that intoxicating anything-can-happen feeling specific to NWSL matches, but it was ultimately San Diego’s for the taking. When the Red Stars next play, maybe their much-needed game-changer will emerge. 

The Goals:

  1. San Diego Wave – Alex Morgan (PK), 56’
  2. San Diego Wave – Kaleigh Real, 89’
  3. Chicago Red Stars – Ava Cook (Yuki Nagasato), 90’

— Julie Schreiber

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Barcelona is ready to lift the UWCL trophy – Equalizer Soccer




Photo copyright Unnati Naidu/SPP.

Barcelona has emerged as a Champions League powerhouse in the past few years, and although they’ve made it to the final three of the past four years, they’ve only walked away with the trophy once. Last year, Olympique Lyonnais went up 3-0 early in the first half, and even though Barcelona was able to claw one back before the half, they had to watch Lyon lift the trophy from the sideline. 

The Equalizer spoke with Barcelona defender Lucy Bronze and midfielder Ingrid Engen about the upcoming Champions League final against VfL Wolfsburg. Bronze has won three Champions League trophies with Lyon, and is finishing her first year with the Spanish side, while Engen has previously been in finals and lost with both VfL Wolfsburg in 2020 and Barcelona in 2022. 

“Definitely it’s motivating when you don’t get the result you want,” Engen said of losing in the final last year. “I think this team is very curious about, ‘okay, how can we improve both the players and the staff?’ So I think the focus was there from the beginning.”

Although Bronze wasn’t yet on the Barcelona squad for the 2022 Champions League final, the team had learned most of their lessons of the season from that one game, so not repeating history was one of the first conversations Bronze had with her new manager. “That was a huge focus of this season and wanting to improve certain things in the team. That’s kind of the mentality of a top team—wanting to fix things for a final that we weren’t even in yet because we had that belief and that mentality that we would make the final, that we would get there and that when we do get there, we know how to right the wrongs of previous experiences.”

On the transition to the Barcelona style of play, Bronze said, “It’s been different. We like to play with the ball, we like the midfield to get on the ball a lot more. My role’s changed a little bit in the team, but it’s something that I enjoy. So I think Barcelona’s probably one of the [teams] I’ve enjoyed the most. To train here every day with the best players in the world is obviously something that’s a positive and helps you improve as a player. Even at the age I am now, I still feel like I can improve and learn a lot of things from the players around me at this club.”

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For Engen, lifting the trophy is “all that matters right now.” She continued, “we’re at the end of the season, a really good one. We have the chance to lift the biggest trophy at the club level…It’s everything I think about and prepare for. So it would mean everything as a football player to get to lift this also for the first time.”

Standing in their way of lifting the trophy is a very strong Wolfsburg side. Of her former team, Engen said, “I think their offensive line are all really good and can create danger against any team they play. All of them have [that] X-factor.” 

Bronze spoke very highly of forward Alexandra Popp: “For both Germany and Wolfsburg, she’s their talisman player, the one that shows up in the big games and the big moments and leads by example, leads the team and has that mentality. I think over the past maybe three, four, five years, she’s been one of the best players in the world. Probably has been overlooked a little bit because she plays in Germany. If she played in another country or won the Champions League more, I think her name would be on the top of a lot of lists for best player in the world.” 

Bronze also mentioned midfielder Lena Oberdorf, who could easily cause problems for Barcelona, saying “she’s a little bit of a different style of a six to the six as we like to play with in Barcelona so it’ll be an interesting clash of styles with Germany in general and Barcelona and Spain in general.”

But at the end of the day, Bronze stressed that Barcelona has faith in their current team. “We’ve got plenty of talented players in our team to compete against not just those two, but all the players that Wolfsburg have to offer with a lot of talent.”

Barcelona will take on VfL Wolfsburg June 3rd at 10am ET.

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Slump or anomaly? Unpacking the Portland Thorns’ erratic few weeks – Equalizer Soccer




Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing encapsulates the strangeness of the Portland Thorns’ recent run of form than the game that kicked it off.

Portland managed to rack up 11 goals and concede only two in their first four matches. While other teams were shaking off the cobwebs of the preseason, only the Thorns looked to be firing on all cylinders from minute one. Reigning National Women’s Soccer League MVP Sophia Smith had a hand in eight of those goals, scoring four and assisting four more in what was shaping up to be a repeat of her 2022 campaign. The gulf between Portland and the rest seemed insurmountable. 

But Becky Sauerbrunn had to subbed off with a foot injury in the second half against Louisville on April 22, and as the title holders welcomed Angel City to Providence Park a week later, her spot would be filled by veteran Emily Menges and Meaghan Nally. What unfurled was a game the Thorns should have easily won 2-0; instead, they had to rely on a ridiculous, last-gasp corner kick backheel from keeper Bella Bixby to just eke out a draw. 

Each goal came from a mistake. Bixby was far too easily beaten at her near post by Alyssa Thompson, who dropped a nasty deke on Kelli Hubly but didn’t convince with the power and placement of her shot. Natalie Kuikka — herself caught upfield during the Thompson counter, leaving Hubly to deal with Thompson 1-v-1 — blinked against Katie Johnson on a corner kick and headed in an own goal. Nally subbed in for Menges early in the second half, and twenty minutes later lost Julie Ertz at the far post on a corner kick, resulting in an easy header to the back of the net. Portland outplayed Angel City for the run of the game, but three mistakes created a desperate scoreline for Bixby’s at-the-death heroics. 

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América and Pachuca complete upsets to move on to Final – Equalizer Soccer




Photo: Club América Femenil

The Clausura 2023 Gran Final is set!

On Monday, Club América and Pachuca downed the mighty Tigres and C.F. Monterrey, respectively, for a shot at the Liga MX Femenil crown. Club América sat in third on the regular season table, while Pachuca occupied the fifth spot. The mighty indeed fell, as Monterrey and Tigres sat atop the table in first and second after four months of competition.

Now, the two underdogs are going to the Gran Final, a two-legged championship. It’s been a while since Club América won the championship, but they made the trip to the final last year, ultimately losing to Tigres. However, during the 2018 Apertura, Club América claimed victory over Tigres.

Pachuca — who boast Golden Boot winner Charlyn Corral, who broke the Liga MX Femenil record with 20 goals this season — finished second to Chivas de Guadalajara a year ago, in the 2022 Clausura. Pachuca and Chivas also competed in the first-ever Gran Final, in Apertura 2017, with Chivas winning the inaugural title.

This will be the first time that América and Pachuca will compete against each other for the title, with one already tasting victory and the other coming close twice.

How did they get to the Gran Final? Let’s take a look at how they completed their upsets.

Club América blanks Tigres — at home and away

During the quarterfinals, América’s Alison González scored her 100th goal in Liga MX Femenil competition. She’s only 21 years old, celebrating her birthday in January. González added on to her career total with a crucial goal at home to earn a slight advantage in the first leg. González struck from about 30 yards out, slipping it past Tigres goalkeeper Aurora Santiago, who hit the ground in an awkward motion.

It wasn’t a massive lead, but it was a lead nonetheless as América went to the formidable El Volcán stadium to face Tigres in Leg 2. Betzy Cuevas was the unlikely hero on the road, scoring in the 71st minute to give América a 2-0 lead on aggregate. Cuevas outran her defender and, with one touch, hit the ball past Santiago.

Tigres threw the kitchen sink at América, but goalkeeper Itzel González and her defense stood strong, earning two clean sheets in both matches. Gearing up for a Gran Final against lethal goal scorers Corral and Spanish international Jenni Hermoso, Club América’s defense needed a strong performance against Tigres. They got it, and now they’re moving on.

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Salazar scores ‘golden goal’ for Pachuca to move on

On a team that has Corral, Hermoso and other star players, Pachuca had their own unlikely hero in their Liguilla semifinal cash. At home, Pachuca and C.F. Monterrey traded attacks on goal, but couldn’t find the back of the net and drew 0-0.

But on the road, Pachuca shined. Controlling the game at Estadio BBVA, Pachuca punched their ticket to the final thanks to a surprising source: Esbeydi Salazar. However, it may not be too surprising to Tuzos Femenil fans, as Salazar has a been a longtime sturdy option, with the club since Clausura 2019 and a regular starter through the years.

Salazar proudly pointed at the Pachuca crest on her kit after scoring, slipping the ball low past Alex Godínez. Her goal was assisted by Corral.

Pachuca struggled with consistency throughout the regular season. Facing the top-ranked team is no easy feat, and that showed especially at home with both sides going scoreless. América is going to keep a close eye on Corral and Hermoso, so the goal from Salazar should bolster Pachuca’s confidence, showing that there are other players capable of scoring for their side.

Sub-18: Toluca defeats América in Final

Congratulations are in order for Toluca Femenil’s Sub-18 side for defeating Club América Sub-18 in penalty kicks for the league title. Which players could we see soon in Liga MX Femenil’s senior league?

What’s Next? Liga MX Femenil Gran Final

The Liga MX Femenil Gran Final will be played on Friday, June 2, and Monday, June 5. Pachuca will host Leg 1, as the lower-ranked team, and Club América will host Leg 2. Kickoff for both matches is 10pm ET.

Matches will be available on ViX. International viewing is TBD.

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