Freya Coombe probably had a pretty good idea of ​​what she was getting into when she agreed to become Angel City FC’s first head coach in August.

Establishing a new women’s soccer franchise in an incredibly competitive market? Not a solution. A former player and coach of English side Reading FC, Coombe had recently coached New York’s National Women’s Soccer League franchise, originally known as Sky Blue FC and rebranded as New York last year. from NJ/NY Gotham FC, a clumsier but also grittier title.

We can argue all day about which market between New York and Los Angeles is more demanding. But the challenge of getting a foothold in each is essentially the same.

Specifically, it was a blank canvas, an opportunity to be part of building a team and an organization from the ground up.

The process of assembling a roster through the expansion draft, college draft, trades, signings and recruiting international players was a whirlwind long before the team gathered at Pepperdine for camp. training on February 1. And if history is any guide, it will likely extend far beyond Angel City’s first official game, March 19, against fellow expansionist San Diego in the NWSL Challenge Cup at Cal State’s Titan Stadium. Fullerton.

“I think until you go through the process, you don’t understand all the nuances and the different strategies,” Coombe said last week. “So many times you build a roster around a key player and then you think you have that player and you either don’t get that player and that changes things or you get that player so you can go on with it. plan it normally.

“As we go through the process, as with any recruitment, sometimes you get them (and) sometimes it’s not quite right. And then you continually ask yourself, ‘OK, this is (plan ) one, two and three, or… we have this player safe, let’s start building around her.’ There are certainly ups and downs in this process.

Yes, there are ups and downs. Angel City has acquired two veterans of the U.S. national team’s World Cup roster – forward Christen Press from Racing Louisville and midfielder Julie Ertz from the Chicago Red Stars. The press is in camp, but Ertz hasn’t played since the Tokyo Olympics last summer (and that was after recovering from an MCL sprain), and there’s been speculation that she could sit out the 2022 season with Angel City retaining her rights.

The new team mostly made headlines for a star-studded (and largely female) ownership and management group, its outreach to the community and local businesses, and for reporting in mid-December that it had already sold 13,200 subscriptions for its first season. at Banc of California Stadium. But he also scored some hits on the roster.

Defender Vanessa Gilles is a key member of the Canadian Olympic champions, acquired by transfer from French club Bordeaux. Brazilian midfielder Stefany Ferrer Van Ginkel last played for Mexico’s Tigres Feminil, who reached the Liga MX Apertura championship game. Defender Allyson Swaby, a former Boston College star who plays for the Jamaican national team, was recently a member of Roma’s 2021 Italian champions.

Closer to home, former Orlando Pride defender Ali Riley – as well as captaining the New Zealand national team and having European experience with Chelsea and Bayern Munich – is a native of Angeleno , having attended Harvard-Westlake High and then Stanford. Likewise, midfielder Dani Weatherholt – selected from Reign FC in the expansion draft – grew up in Capistrano Beach and played four years for San Clemente High before moving to Santa Clara. Press, who grew up on the Palos Verdes peninsula and played in Chadwick, also has strong local roots.

“We’re lucky with the players we’ve targeted in the league and been able to get,” Coombes said. “You get those other little wins that pop up (when) you think a player wouldn’t be available, and then we managed to secure them. Savannah McCaskill (a midfielder who’s part of the USWNT player pool) is a great example of that, where it was, “OK, we could probably make it happen.” We went after her quite aggressively and were very grateful to sign her, because she’s been a top player for we.

The idea, Coombe said, was to bring together a mix of experienced NWSL players and players with international experience, in addition to young players still eager for a chance.

As for the challenge of succeeding in Los Angeles? Coombe seems to understand. One of the most recent posts on his Twitter timeline, in fact, was a photo of SoFi Stadium two Sundays ago, captioned: “Let’s go @RamsNFL.”

“We are in a very competitive market,” she said. “So we want to have a competitive team…able to fight for championships, able to go after the playoffs and keep that culture of winning in the city of Los Angeles.

“You know, we have 14,000 season ticket holders that we have to make sure we entertain every week, not to mention the other individual season ticket holders who will be coming to the games. So we have to make sure that we entertain fans and supporters and that we (produce) a really attractive product.

The six-game Challenge Cup, a regionalized pre-season tournament that will run until the end of April, will be a soft start, with Angel City playing all three of their home games at the 10,000-seat facility in Fullerton before moving on. moving to the city and Banc of California Stadium for the regular season.

“That first Bench game is the only thing we’re working towards,” Coombe said.

This will mean that the journey has truly begun.

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