SoCal Soccer Spotlight: Where’s Becki Tweed’s money?

Meanwhile, LAFC struggles in the build-up to El Tráfico.

Soccer players fighting for the ball.

It’s time to give Becki Tweed the job

Angel City FC needs to make a statement.

For about three-quarters of the club’s brief existence, the team has not been a serious competitor. The Freya Coombe reign promised a lot with splashy signings like Christen Press in 2021, but has since achieved little.

Until now, that is. And head coach Becki Tweed has earned her contract offer to become Angel City’s permanent manager.

It’s not an overstatement to say that Tweed has turned ACFC into an actually competitive team.

In Tweed’s 10-game run in both the NWSL regular season and the Challenge Cup, Angel City has yet to lose, totaling six wins and four draws. Even more impressively, five of those wins came against the top four teams in the NWSL by league position, including two against SoCal rivals the San Diego Wave FC.

Going back to the team’s inaugural season in 2022, this 10-game streak marks the first occasion Angel City has an unbeaten streak of more than five matches.

Even including fifth-place Gotham FC and the sixth-place Washington Spirit, no team outside the top four looks more likely to qualify for the playoffs than Angel City. Two more wins and two more draws would bring the team to 32 points, which will most likely earn them the sixth-place playoff berth. The team would go on the road to play the three-seed, a spot currently held by the North Carolina Courage, whom ACFC beat 2-1 in July. No team wants to play Angel City in their current form, and no team would relish a playoff game against them either.

Tweed and her staff have accomplished this without many signings, either. U.S. women’s national team legend Julie Ertz only played two games under Tweed before leaving for the World Cup and retired after the U.S.’s loss to Sweden. Amandine Henry’s move from eight-time Women’s Champions League-winners Lyon could’ve provided a boost back in June, but she injured her calf in the build-up to the World Cup and has made just one ACFC appearance so far.

Tweed has worked with limited resources to turn around a team that looked like it was headed for a bottom-three finish. What else does she need to do to remove the “interim” from her title?

I’ve spent a lot of time in this column outlining how Angel City seems poised to make the club’s first playoff appearance. While I’ve praised Tweed for that progress again this week, she deserves a contract extension regardless of how Angel City finishes the season.

Clubs need to choose process over results when selecting the captain of their ships.

But that’s the thing: Tweed has demonstrated a command for the process and an ability to achieve strong results.

Fans should feel most encouraged by Tweed’s attacking play. In her 10 matches, ACFC have only had fewer than eight shots on two occasions, but they still managed to use counterattacks and set pieces to their advantage to beat the OL Reign 2-1 when they posted a season-low five shots. When the attack clicks, Angel City can tally fifteen-plus total strikes.

At the other end of the pitch, Tweed’s defense has been stout, not conceding more than one goal in a match yet. With a healthy Amandine Henry and a clinical striker for the 2024 season, Angel City could even challenge for the Supporters’ Shield, the trophy given to the first-place team in regular season play.

The Angel City hierarchy should name Tweed the permanent head coach as soon as possible and provide her with security through the end of the 2025 season. That may seem like an unnecessarily long extension in a league where teams can rise and fall quickly, but if club president Julie Uhrman and general manager Angela Hucles Mangano allow Tweed to walk at the end of this season, they will feel positively silly.

And who knows, maybe the contract announcement would give the team a boost in the short-term, too.

Time to panic for LAFC?

What’s the old saying? Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern? It goes something like that.

LAFC has a pattern on its hands, a pattern of losing. Losing both home and away, to Eastern and Western Conference teams. The alarm bells aren’t sounding quite yet, but my hand is hovering over the button.

The latest goose egg came on the road to the Portland Timbers — usually a competent, playoff mainstay who this season find themselves in 11th place in the west. The Timbers’ expected goals numbers (per FootyStats) would actually suggest the Timbers have been slightly unlucky this season, having conceded more and scored fewer goals based on the quality of the chances they’ve faced and created.

Nonetheless, a 2-0 road loss to the 20th-best team in the league (on a points per game basis) does not bode well for a supposed MLS Cup-contender.

Strangely, LAFC lost this match doing exactly the thing I’ve criticized them for not doing in previous weeks: controlling it on paper.

LAFC accumulated 61% possession in this match and played 514 total passes, almost double Portland’s 287 and about as many as the 539 LAFC tallied in their previous two matches combined (against Charlotte FC and Inter Miami).

So while I have to commend LAFC for finally taking a game by the reins, the black and gold failed to combine that with the same chance creation we’re used to seeing from them. According to FotMob, the Timbers had 2.27 expected goals in this match to LAFC’s 1.20, mostly due to some catastrophic set piece defending on the Timbers’ first goal.

Goalkeeper John McCarthy mishit the ball so badly on his attempted punch it should be recorded as an own goal. The ball bounced meekly off his hands into the turf and popped up for the Timbers’ Larrys Mabiala for an unmissable header. McCarthy has been a competent back-up for Maxime Crépeau for most of the season, but the past two weeks, between this mistake and Facundo Farías’ goal for Inter Miami, LAFC are missing their Canadian No. 1.

The Timbers’ second goal came from a brilliant series of one-touch passes that LAFC doesn’t seem capable of putting together on their own, with their emphasis on pace and space to create chances.

LAFC can’t put a complete performance together at the moment and with El Tráfico coming this weekend, the reigning champs look desperate for a win.

Speaking of…

El Tráfico Preview

Since the epic July 4 El Tráfico that the Galaxy won at the Rose Bowl, the two rivals’ fortunes have flipped completely.

Going into that match, the Galaxy couldn’t buy a win, having lost nine of their opening 14 matches, while LAFC looked set to repeat as MLS Cup champions.

But, my friends, it’s a long season.

Riqui Puig has emerged as the best MLS player on the mortal side of Lionel Messi, with five goals and two assists in previous seven MLS matches in his hybrid No. 10/No. 8 role. The team’s entire creative and goalscoring burden falls on the Spaniard, making it even more impressive that he’s living up to his lofty expectations.

The Galaxy still have an outside shot at making the playoffs and winning three out of the season’s four El Tráficos (including the U.S. Open Cup match) would save a lot of face in a distinctly mediocre season.

LAFC badly need the morale boost an El Tráfico would bring, further increasing the stakes in this weekend’s game at BMO Stadium. Oddsmakers still heavily favor LAFC to secure the win, but the Galaxy have all the momentum.

Make sure you have your game day snacks and a cold drink ready when the clock strikes 7:30 p.m. this Saturday.

Next games:

LAFC: Saturday, September 16 vs. LA Galaxy (home)

Angel City: Sunday, September 17 vs. Chicago Red Stars (away)

LA Galaxy: Saturday, September 16 vs. LAFC (away)

“SoCal Soccer Spotlight” is a column by Jack Hallinan about the professional soccer landscape in Los Angeles.