Popular NWSL expansion team Angel City FC were ahead for 90-plus minutes against the Portland Thorns on Friday, July 1, at the Banc of California Stadium, when a pivotal ACFC substitution occurred in the last minutes of stoppage time, followed by a goal from the Thorns. This prompted many an ACFC fan to leave the stands grumbling about the late-game change. The player in question? Jun Endo.
The standout ACFC winger and sometimes wingback was subbed out in the 95th minute due to apparent muscle cramps, and in the 96th (and final minute) of stoppage time, the Thorns equalized on a brilliant cross from Thorns' Madison Pogarch to Yazmeen Ryan at the far post. Yes, the same far post that Endo would have been covering had she not been subbed off. A coincidence? A too simple analysis? Some (including myself) might say so, but ACFC fans adore Endo's stylish play, and her work ethic on the field is undeniable. So while Pogarch's bursting run past ACFC midfielder Stefany Ferrer Van Ginkel may have been the origin of the goal, it's not unreasonable to think even a cramping Endo may have prevented the Thorns from finishing.
ACFC took an early lead after getting a fortunate penalty when Thorns' defender Kelli Hubly chopped down Miriael Taylor in the box. ACFC playmaker Savannah McCaskill stepped up to take the PK and was initially denied by Shelby Hogan, but followed up the rebound to give the home team a 1-0 lead. This was Hogan's NWSL debut and the keeper put up an impressive seven saves through the rest of the match to keep ACFC's lead at bay.
While the Thorns had a whopping five players make their first NWSL start, ACFC also treated fans to the debut of Olympic gold medalist Sydney Leroux, who was acquired from Orlando Pride just days before in a deal that included $75,000 in allocation money and Angel City's natural first-round pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft.
Angel City currently sit sixth in the league, while the Thorns remain third.
Fan photos of the game can be downloaded here
Angel City vs. San Diego Wave, Sat., July 9, 7:30 p.m. in L.A.
Portland Thorns vs. OL Reign, Sun., July 10, at 3 p.m. in Seattle.