First Reactions to the ‘Angel City’ Documentary

With Angel City hitting HBO Max this week, we take a look at how the pilot episode sets up the rest of the three-part docu-series. 

The three-part Angel City FC docu-series made its premiere on HBO Max (soon to be just Max) earlier this week, and if the first episode is any indication, it’s going to be quite the ride.

Even though we know how the first season went for the club, there is still real excitement about the series, as it brings new exposure to the team and women’s soccer as a whole. That’s where the magic of Angel City lies.

Before we get too far, this article is only reacting and talking about the pilot episode — we won’t spoil the entire show so close to the release date.

At the heart of episode one is the excitement behind Angel City FC. Even before the club had a name and crest, there was a buzz that few other NWSL teams ever had.

The series starts with actress and ACFC co-founder Natalie Portman leading the Angel City crowd in the club’s signature three-clap before a game. I can’t think of a better start — something that hasn’t really caught on with the fan base being forced upon us to start the series. After that, we’re good for a while, but it was a great reminder from the get go, we are being fed a very specific story.

We get a chronological retelling of the process to get Angel City started within the three co-founders — Portman, Julie Uhrman, and Kara Nortman — to landing their lead investor Alexis Ohanian.

It’s mostly women involved at the club, especially at the front office level. It’s different by design and you the viewer, need to know that. The episode then gets at the greater women’s soccer landscape and what exactly was happening as the club started from an organizational perspective.

Christen Press, Angel City’s first signing, opens up about her rookie season in what was actually a precursor to the NWSL, club investor and United States women’s national team legend Abby Wambach discusses the process of retiring and the uncertainty that came with it despite winning an ESPY icon award that same month.

The player we hear from the most is Paige Neilson by far, followed by Vanessa Gilles. Sprinkle in a little Press, Simone Charley, Ali Riley, Madison Hammond and a brief Cari Roccaro cameo rounds out the player appearances. I was quite surprised with how few Riley moments made it in episode one, as she normally is the player most involved with off-the-field moments for the club.

The Athletic’s Meg Linehan and the Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Baxter are the reporters that are featured throughout. Toss in Uhrman, Ohanion, Nortman, head coach Freya Coombe, and former general manager Eniola Aluko and that’s a lot of folks to keep track of.

Similar to ACFC’s inaugural season, the first episode is a whirlwind. One minute you’re learning that Neilson had a rib removed and the next you’re realizing Uhrman has a twin who works for the club, and now you’re never really sure who is who.

Without a doubt the best moment of the whole episode is tucked away towards the very end: A little argument between Aluko and Coombe after the Challenge Cup loss to the San Diego Wave. What was noticeable wasn’t that there was a disagreement after a thorough loss to the new rival and fellow expansion team, it was that they really were not on the same page on what the core problem was. We obviously aren’t hearing all of it and we jump into the middle of a conversation, but the rift is clear.

We only get through the Challenge Cup in the first episode, and we actually get highlights of each game. While it’s cool to see the game from field level, I don’t want to relive every game of the year and really hope it only becomes important games in the next two episodes.

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All in all I can’t say I was disappointed but I wouldn’t say I was wowed either. There are hints of interesting storylines and definitely some moments from the regular season I really want to see, but it was a lot of setup — one hour and we only got through pre-season. But with three parts, there is surely still more to come.

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