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NWSL news: ACFC shock Wave under new leadership, Spirit complete comeback

May 13, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Angel City FC defender Mary Alice Vignola (16) passes the ball during the second half against the Washington Spirit at BMO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

From an upset in southern California to a statement triumph in Kentucky, week 12 of the NWSL regular season was packed with riveting action in the hottest of conditions. 

NWSL news: Mary Vignola wins it late as Angel City secure three points in first match without Freya Coombe

The southern California rivalry did not fail to deliver. Just days after the franchise’s first manager was fired, Angel City was set to meet up with its in-state rival. Sitting in 11th position having gone winless in the club’s previous six matches across all competitions, ACFC looked more disjointed than any other NWSL club. Interim manager Becki Tweed gave Sydney Leroux her first start of the season at Snapdragon Stadium with the forward line needing a lift. Casey Stoney’s San Diego Wave were on the opposite spectrum. The Wave were unbeaten in the five contests heading into week 12.

With just four shots in total within the first 45 minutes, the match lacked a lot of offensive creativity. In the 57′, that all changed. Alex Morgan played a perfectly weighted pass to Kristen McNabb who put her left boot through the strike to generate the power necessary to find the game’s first breakthrough.

With the fans behind and a stable defense in the back, the Wave were well-equipped to see this match out. Tweed and ACFC had other plans. The away side continued to push forward, collecting the contest’s next six shots including the equalizer by Paige Nielsen who snuck her shot past the arms of Kailen Sheridan at her near post.

It was the first time since May 27 that the Los Angeles side was either tied or leading in a regular season matchup. It was Nielsen’s first goal since August 13, 2021. When the center-back found the back of the net, the belief within the team changed as the traveling fans attempted to lift their side up who were desperate to earn a result.

Even a draw given ACFC’s form would have been a step in the right direction, but Tweed’s team wanted more. For the next 20 minutes, the L.A side created the better of the opportunities. Minutes after Jasmyne Spencer nearly found the far post, Scarlett Camberos picked up the ball off a San Diego giveaway and dished it to Mary Vignola who did the rest. No Wave defender stepped toward the ball, and the 25-year-old was able to record her second goal in as many games. ACFC jumps to 10th position while Stoney’s team ends the weekend in fifth. Maybe it is the new manager bounce, but to go on the road and win days after hearing the news of Coombe’s dismissal against that opposition is quite impressive.

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