Why is Angel City overhauling its roster? The club explains investment in new players

Angel City made it to the playoffs in its second NWSL season last year. But the roster that will take the training field to start the team’s third season Wednesday will be a lot different than the one it used in that postseason loss in Seattle three months ago.

Gone are midfielders Savannah McCaskill and Dani Weatherholt, forwards Simone Charley and Scarlett Camberos and goalkeeper Brittany Isenhour. In are midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard and teenagers Casey Phair, a forward, and Gisele Thompson, a defender, as well as midfielders Felicia Knox and Jessica Garziano and defender Madison Curry, who the team selected in last week’s NWSL draft.

The latest addition came Tuesday when Angel City added Costa Rica international Raquel “Rocky” Rodríguez from the Portland Thorns in exchange for $275,000 in allocation money. And the team isn’t done, with at least one more player expected to join the roster this week.

“Ultimately, it’s a little bit of how we as a club need to respond because of free agency and things that are a little bit up in the air, just to kind of see which direction players are going. But also trying to keep a group together, a consistent core, while also really looking at what we could do to elevate the needs of the club,” general manager Angela Hucles Mangano said of the roster overhaul.

“It’s always a combination of factors that go into it. There are sometimes positional needs. Salary definitely comes into play. But it’s also about how we want to build this team. Whether that’s diversity culturally, looking at what the player will bring to the club and past experience, it’s always a variety of factors that go into those decisions.”

McCaskill and Weatherholt, who rank first and second in appearances in club history, left as free agents, as did Charley and Isenhour, sacrificed in part to keep the payroll below the league salary cap of $2.75 million. Camberos, a Mexican international who tied for the team high with five assists in 2023, was traded to expansion team Bay FC for $50,000 in allocation money and roster protection in the expansion draft.

Hucles Mangano’s busy offseason also included re-signing a number of core players, including forward Jun Endo, midfielders Clarisse Le Bihan, Madison Hammond and Lily Nabet, defenders Sarah Gorden and Megan Reid, and goalkeeper Angelina Anderson. Still, the team that reported to camp this week will be younger and have less NWSL experience than the one made the postseason under interim coach Becki Tweed, who was promoted to full-time manager in November.

“We are at a stage now where we are not an expansion team anymore and we have to keep strengthening our squad,” Tweed said. “Looking at our 2024 roster we have a great blend of immediate-impact players and players we see for the future.”

Hucles Mangano said she worked closely with Tweed on the offseason changes, transitioning the roster from one built by former coach Freya Coombe to one that better suits the way Tweed wants to play.

“It’s a mix of myself and Becky,” the general manager said. “It’s in the best interest to be on the same page, GM and head coach. But also just understanding the style of player that Becky feels comfortable with and what she really needs.”

While the loss of McCaskill and Weatherholt cost the team a lot in terms of NWSL experience, Phair, 16, played in last summer’s World Cup for South Korea and Thompson, 18, the younger sister of Angel City forward Alyssa Thompson, has played in a U-17 World Cup. Rodríguez, meanwhile, has made more than 130 NWSL appearances with Portland and Sky Blue FC.

“It’s just new experience and different experience,” Hucles Mangano said. “All of our younger players have actually played, in one form or capacity, [for] the U.S. national team, [in] World Cups. What we might not have is the experience that age brings. We are bringing in players who are younger but have a different type of experience. They have played in pressure situations.”

The general manager said she was uncertain about the status of Angel City’s most-experienced player, two-time World Cup winner Christen Press, 35, who hasn’t played since tearing her right ACL in June 2022, an injury that has taken four surgeries to repair. However, Hucles Mangano said Press reported to camp this week for her physical.

“She’s here and she’s getting ready for preseason and the season,” she said.

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