ACFC defender Sarah Gorden was sidelined for the 2022 season due to a torn ACL (Courtesy of Angel City Football Club)

After recovering from tearing her ACL last season, Angel City Football Club (ACFC) defender Sarah Gorden is preparing for the 2023 season. She noted how she is enjoying the first three days of training with the team.

“I felt so celebrated by my teammates and it’s been great to be around their energy and their vibe,” Gorden said. “Been a long time, been almost a year.”

Gorden, a native of Elk Grove, Illinois, has not had three consecutive days of training in one year. She was traded to ACFC after six seasons with the Chicago Red Stars. Prior to the start of the ACFC’s inaugural season, Gorden sustained the injury. She recalled watching Angel City’s first home game: a 2-1 win over the North Carolina Courage.

“I will never forget the home opener, being so proud of the team but having tears because that was something that I really wanted to be a part of,” Gorden said. “It’s watching kind of from a distance and being in a new city and then not really knowing my team that well because we are a new club, it was a difficult process.”

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Her first two weeks of practice is about getting touches on the ball and getting comfortable with being among her teammates. Gorden is lauded for her versatility; decisions on her role with ACFC will happen after head coach Freya Coombe surveys the entire roster as the preseason commences.

Gorden was drafted by the Chicago Red Stars in 2016 (Courtesy of Angel City Football Club)

“It’s about developing that level of comfort and having her back in and making sure that her integration back into team training is as smooth as possible,” Coombe said. “The biggest thing is welcoming her back onto the field and making sure that she’s comfortable and confident and ready to go for the season.”

After sustaining the injury, Gorden believed she would be able to return to the field before the 2022 season ended.

“I always thought of myself as kind of a freak and I thought I’d be back in six months,” Gorden said. “But it is a very difficult process, so I wasn’t really close to being back by the end of the season.”

Gorden played soccer and ran track for DePaul University (Courtesy of Angel City Football Club)

During her time at DePaul University, she had to sit out one season because she was pregnant with her son Caiden. She noted how that experience prepared her for the challenges of her injury.

“Being pregnant, stepping away from the game but also dealing with being a young mom going through a pregnancy and kind of feeling isolated,” Gorden said. “I feel like that was probably the most difficult time period of my life.”

Her time away from the team last season was the first time she took a break from soccer since she got drafted in 2016.

“With an injury like this, you want to get away and take time for yourself,” Gorden said. “It was a great year for me to step away and figure out some things about myself in a selfish way and then come back and now I feel more ready and prepared  mentally than I ever have.”