Paige Nielsen scores late goal to defeat her former team Angel City FC

LOS ANGELES — Paige Nielsen called Angel City FC home for two seasons entering this season.

In April, Nielsen was traded to the Houston Dash.

Nielsen returned Sunday to BMO Stadium, but on the other side of the field and in the visiting locker room. She received a loud ovation as if she was still in the black of Angel City during the starting lineup introductions and in the final stages of the game, she capped her emotional return with the game-winning goal.

Nielsen, off of a corner-kick, scored in the late stages of the seven minutes of stoppage time to hand her former club Angel City a 1-0 defeat in front of 18,037 at BMO Stadium.

“This place was really special for me,” Nielsen said. “The fans, the community, my own teammates and being here from the inception, it was really tough, but coming back here, I knew that I really wanted to win this game.

“I even told my new team, that they should do everything to win this game. They did such a good job, one of our best games since I’ve been with Houston and I’m super proud of them and I’m so thankful to be the one to score at the end. Probably one of the best moments of my career.”

Nielsen’s goal at the end of a tough game for both teams. Houston was playing the second game in five games, but still managed to buckle down on the defensive end.

Nielsen joined Angel City (3-4-1, 10 points) in the expansion draft before the club’s first season. She made 20 appearances the first season and 21 last season.

Nielsen said her heard talks of a possible trade.

“It was very sudden,” she said. “I knew there were talks the day before it happened and then I got brought into a meeting that Friday. The trade deadline window and basically was told it was verbally agreed that the trade would happen. I wasn’t really prepared for it to happen in midseason, I wanted to stay with Angel City …I was going to be a free agent at the end of the year and don’t know if Angel City could or wanted to pay what other teams were offering for me. Smart move by them if they could actually get something for me before I became a free agent, because I know Angel City had a lot of amazing defenders and they needed to restructure and rebuild and I’m flattered teams wanted me for a trade.”

Angel City FC had won three of their last four games entering Sunday, but again struggled offensively. Angel City won the possession battle, had 13 shots, but just three on target.

“Honestly, the moments at the end matter, but I think the 96 minutes leading up to that are the more relevant part,” Angel City coach Becki Tweed said. “Ultimately, the 96 minutes that we had, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. That last minute, it hurts and sometimes football is cruel, but that 96 minutes before it, are a space that we have to get better in.

“It was just one of those games where we didn’t create enough (chances) and we weren’t dangerous enough in the final third. We had 13 shots apparently and I don’t know where they came from. We had some good build up moments, but that’s not enough to win games.”

Angel City will be back in action Saturday on the road against the Washington Spirit. They will meet Nielsen and the Dash again in June, by then Nielsen should be settled in, with her dogs and wife.

“I was really devastated (about the trade) for awhile and I had to move forward and do my job with Houston,” she said. “I”m getting excited more, the girls are really great at Houston. I miss a lot of people here (at Angel City), but I’m excited for another adventure.”

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