“I’m just excited to be here!”
DiDi Haračić was smiling from ear to ear, sitting in her new home on the west coast. After three years as the backup keeper with Gotham FC, she was ready to take on the pressure of a starting role. “I just want to take it all in,” said the 29-year-old goalkeeper.
During the 2021 season, Gotham FC’s starting keeper, Canadian International Kailen Sheridan, suffered an injury during the SheBelieves Cup. The injury kept her out of the Challenge Cup that year, affording Haračić the opportunity to step up.
And step up she did. Haračić made her mark on that tournament, bringing Gotham FC all the way to the final game in Portland where the team lost to the Thorns in a penalty shootout.
Despite the loss, Haračić was only looking forward. She would go on to start in a total of 12 games, including eight games in the regular season where she boasted a 79.3% save percentage and two shutouts.
During the 2021 off-season, Haračić was traded to Angel City FC. In return, Gotham FC received $50,000 in allocation money and protection from the 2022 Expansion Draft.
“On a personal level, I saw what I was capable of, and that’s what drew me into LA,” she said.
More than soccer
Haračić wanted to be a part of what Angel City was building, capitalizing on a huge soccer market with what she expects to be an amazing gameday atmosphere. It’s more than just soccer for Haračić, and Angel City shares that outlook.
“They stand for something that’s beyond soccer,” the keeper explained. “At the end of the day, soccer is a part of my life, but there are a lot of bigger things outside of it, and that is what I love about the club.”
In her eyes, Angel City goes out of their way to get involved in the community and ensure players are treated like professionals. “The entire staff is so welcoming, and the investors genuinely want what’s best for the players,” she said. “I’m just happy to be here!”
Besides the club itself, Haračić had a more personal reason for moving to the west coast and joining Angel City - goalkeeping coach Daniel Ball.
Ball was the goalkeeping coach at Gotham FC during the 2021 season, and for Haračić, it was their partnership that allowed her to grow into the player she is today. “He has impacted my life, and he won’t take credit for it. But I tell him he’s part of my success, and I have a lot of respect for him,” she said. “What he did for me, and knowing what we could do together in 10 months is what I was really excited for.”
Although head coach Freya Coombe is also on staff at Angel City, goalkeepers don’t always train with the field players. “Sometimes I never see Freya!” Haračić joked.
For Haračić, who has now spent time on 4 different NWSL teams, Angel City goes above and beyond, even on the little things, which makes the club stand out in the league. Everything from recovery equipment to top of the line team gear is provided in a way she has not seen before. The club focuses on community involvement and team bonding, making sure the focus is on more than just soccer.
Now that Haračić has found her new home, she is looking forward to making her mark and showing her teammates and the league just what she’s capable of.
A new beginning
As she moves forward in this next chapter, Haračić won’t forget what got her to this point. To make this team her own, it’s necessary for her to continue to look back on her past experiences, including the games she started in goal for Gotham FC last year.
“I hold onto those 12 games I played in, and more so the Portland games,” she said. “That gives me a sense of grounding knowing what I was capable of, because that’s high pressure.”
Fans of the league won’t soon forget Haračić’s start in Gotham FC’s Challenge Cup final against the Thorns in 2021 where Haračić made an expertly timed diving save against a shot from Thorns forward and Canadian National Team legend Christine Sinclair. This moment, played in front of tens of thousands of fans, continues to drive Haračić to this day.
As for Angel City, Haračić is excited to show the league what they’ve got.
“We want to be a calm presence, and even under chaos or high pressure we want to be a team that is calm and able to play out of it,” she explained.
Because they’re a new club, the team is getting to know one another - and Haračić is learning everything she can about her teammates on the field. “I’m trying to understand what my teammates want, how they want to play, and reading their body language to know what they need,” she said. “We’re still getting used to each other, but we’re super excited about Saturday.”
Saturday, March 19, will be Angel City FC’s debut as a newly minted NWSL team, and Haračić thinks they’re ready. The team will be playing their new state rivals, San Diego Wave FC - also an expansion team for the 2022 season. The two teams played a scrimmage against each other just days earlier, getting all the players extra excited about their upcoming match.
Most of all, Haračić cannot wait to see the fans. “The fan base is what makes it awesome,” she said.
Angel City will be playing their Challenge Cup games at Titan Stadium at California State University Fullerton before moving to their home at the Banc of California Stadium in Downtown Los Angeles, which has a capacity of over 20,000. The smaller venue at Titan Stadium can still hold 10,000 fans, and Haračić is expecting seats to be filled.
As the days tick down the calendar, Angel City is well aware that they’re making team history. “We keep saying, ‘Happy First Game Week!’ to each other,” Haračić laughed. “This is history for us!”
She feels confident about what this team will be bringing this year, and is most impressed with the positive environment that has been created, even outside of practice. “It’s awesome to hang out after and outside of practice. That’s what I love seeing!” Haračić said.
On a personal level, Haračić has adjusted well to life in LA. She’s continuing to work on her photography, and recently brought her camera and drone to a surfing session with some of her teammates. “It’s just continuing to build on that chemistry,” she said.
For their first match, Angel City will face San Diego Wave FC on Saturday, March 19th at 9PM ET. With all eyes on the two expansion teams this weekend, Haračić is looking forward to getting out there.
“We’re excited, and we’re ready.”