ACFC Defender Madison Hammond (99) came in second on the team with 54 touches and led the team with 37 completed passes (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

Despite coming out with energy in the first half, the Angel City Football Club (ACFC) fell short 0-2 to the OL Reign in their first UKG Challenge Cup game of the season.

For the Challenge Cup, the NWSL is split up into three groups: East, Central and West. Each group consists of four teams; every team within the group plays each other twice. The ACFC is in the West along with their rivals San Diego Wave FC, the Portland Thorns FC, and the OL Reign.

The 2023 season marks the first time the Challenge Cup will take place during the season.

ACFC forward Jasmyne Spencer (3)had 51 touches and made one shot on target (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

“Seeing that the Challenge Cup was in the beginning of the season, I thought it would be nice to come in and be not so straight out the gate like season games,” said Angel City defender M.A. Vignola. “We got to get bodies right, everyone feeling good, it’s going to be interesting.”

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The Challenge Cup prize this year is $1 million which is the biggest in United States Club Soccer history.

“Last year, we really used it as a runway. We were a brand-new team, so we emphasized on figuring out our identity and didn’t make a ton of changes,” said forward Jasmyne Spencer. “But now we have the ability to rotate players … and tap into our depth.”

Angel City defender M.A. Vignola (16) made three shots against OL Reign (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

Usual starters, like defender Megan Reid and forward Jun Endo, were substitutes in the matchup. Despite the loss, the ACFC had 14 total shots, with 10 being from inside the box.

Angel City managed to defend their goal up until the 64th minute when OL Reign forward Jordyn Huitema scored.

“It seemed a little bit unlucky in those moments, but we also need to make sure we’re not putting ourselves in those positions,” said ACFC head coach Freya Coombe. “We need to be focused and be able to move the ball quickly throughout.”

Angel City defender Sarah Gorden (11) led the ACFC with 56 touches and three won tackles (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock got the second goal in the 77th minute.

“We want to be really stingy and not give up set-piece goals,” Spencer said. “We’ll have to look at the film and make the necessary adjustments.”

The ACFC look forward to their rivalry game against the San Diego Wave FC. The club also recently signed U.S. Women’s National Team star Julie Ertz. Coombe noted how having Ertz will “raise the standard of the team.”

“I mentioned when we signed her in terms of just being that rock in the center of midfield for us, defending in front of the backline, enabling us to defend a little bit higher,” Coombe said. “Adding a little bit of that physicality as well as ability on the ball is going to help us.”

Angel City will host the San Diego Wave FC at the BMO Stadium at 5:00P.M.