Angel City FC hosts sellout crowd for regular-season opener

Ali Riley #5 of Angel City FC handles the ball defended by Taylor Smith #2 of North Carolina Courage in the first half at Banc of California Stadium on April 29, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Angel City FC kicked off their inaugural NWSL regular season on a high, downing the North Carolina Courage 2-1 in front of a sellout crowd in Los Angeles Friday night.

Banc of California Stadium was packed with 22,000 spectators, erupting as Vanessa Giles and Jun Endo notched the first two regular-season goals in franchise history.

The evening was emotional for players, fans and investors who have pushed for a Los Angeles-based women’s club for years.

“I have waited for a moment this for 12 years,” ACFC captain Ali Riley said. “I’ve been all over the world, and to be here with my parents watching the game, to feel the love, the support-I think we proved that anything is possible in women’s sports. I’ll never forget this.”

Angel City investor and soccer legend Abby Wambach was overcome by the moment as well, thanking founder Natalie Portman in an Instagram post following the history-making match.

“So many more people to thank and more to process. But tonight is for Natalie. For her being brave enough to show us that we can make our dreams reality,” Wambach wrote. “Tonight, on this glorious night, we all honor you Natalie. For showing us how to turn our heartbreak into action. We adore you. You have changed me and my family forever.”

The marquee match also included a pre-game celebration headlined by a red carpet for the team’s women-led leadership. Stars like Jennifer Garner were in attendance, along with sports icon Billie Jean King.

“It feels like a tipping point, maybe,” the tennis legend told Lori Lindsey ahead of Friday’s game. “I’m hoping that the empowerment that these women are going to show by being out on the field, it’s sold out, it shows that people believe in it. They believe in these women. They believe in sports. They know it’s good for everyone.”

Angel City FC will continue their NWSL campaign on Sunday, May 8, against the Orlando Pride at Banc of California Stadium.