Amanda Cromwell makes memorable L.A. homecoming vs. Angel City team she once co-owned
Six months ago Amanda Cromwell was part of the sprawling group of well-known and well-heeled investors backing Angel City, the NWSL expansion club that had brought women’s professional soccer back to Southern California.
Sunday she returned to L.A. to see the club play for the first time — only she watched from the visiting technical area, where she coached the Orlando Pride to a 1-0 win before an announced crowd of 17,510 at Banc of California Stadium.
The game’s only score came from Sydney Leroux who, like Cromwell, was celebrating a homecoming. Leroux, a Hermann Trophy semifinalist at UCLA who was playing her first club game in Los Angeles, pounced on a deflected cross in the center of the box and caromed a left-footed shot in off Angel City defender Megan Reid in the third minute.
That would prove to be Orlando’s only shot on goal, but it was the only one Cromwell, who followed Leroux to UCLA and led the Bruins to eight NCAA tournament appearances and the school’s only national championship in nine seasons, would need for her first NWSL win.
“The first one feels great,” Cromwell said. “Being back in L.A., it gives me this feeling of just being super calm and peaceful and just like, ‘Hey, we got this.’
“After being here for nine years, it’s just kind of poetic, I guess, getting the first one here.”
She followed a checkered road to get there, however. When Cromwell left UCLA to take the coaching job in Orlando last fall, she was told she first had to divest her stake in Angel City.
You really can’t blame Cromwell for not considering that ahead of time. After all, when’s the last time someone coached against a team they owned?
“I really didn’t think it was a big deal,” said Cromwell, who had joined more than a dozen other former U.S. national team players in helping found Angel City 22 months ago. “But it makes sense. When you’re coaching another team, you could say there’s a conflict of interest.”
What if you’re investing in the team you coach? Cromwell said that was a possibility both she and Angel City explored last summer before the team hired Freya Coombe as its first coach.
“There were some conversations. But it had to be the right fit for a variety of reasons,” she said.
She found that fit in Orlando after a new ownership group headed by Minnesota Vikings owners Mark, Zygi and Lenny Wilf bought the Pride 10 months ago.
The first ever NWSL match in Angel City history felt a lot like a movie premiere. It also had a Hollywood-like ending with Angel City winning, 2-1.
She hasn’t completely cut her ties to L.A. and Angel City, however. She’s kept her Southern California home, which she now rents out, and her newlywed wife, Megan Fish, kept her job with Angel City, where she works as a producer and reporter with the club’s content team.
Asked who Fish was cheering for Sunday, Cromwell insisted clan comes before club.
“You want your wife to do well, so I would think that’s priority No.1,” she said.
Aside from Sunday, Cromwell confessed she’s also hoping Angel City (1-1-0) does well — and for reasons that have nothing to do with her wife or her former stake in the club. In fact, she said the entire NWSL is rooting for Angel City, a new team in a big city with more than 15,400 season-ticket-holders and a high-profile ownership group that includes Hollywood A-listers Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner and Christina Aguilera.
U.S. women’s national team legend Abby Wambach is part of an Angel City FC ownership group that wants to be a game-changer when it comes to gender equality.
“All the teams should be taking notes of what Angel City has done and is doing,” she said. “I’m excited. We all want that kind of success for each other.”
In her locker room, though, there was no doubt pride — the personal and the team kind — dictated Cromwell’s loyalties Sunday.
“Amanda would not lose, would not give anything up,” said defender Megan Montefusco, one of three Orlando players and 15 in the NWSL who played for the coach at UCLA. “We’re in this business to win. She would never jeopardize anything like that.”
Speaking of wins, including the preseason NWSL Challenge Cup the Pride (1-1-0), which have been plagued by injuries, didn’t have any until Sunday, having lost five of its first seven games this year.