Snapdragon Stadium-San Diego, CA
It was an agonizing but ultimately fair result for the San Diego Wave on Friday night. They fought bravely against relentless pressure from the Portland Thorns, keeping the game scoreless for the first 85 minutes. Then, when San Diego’s Sofia Jakobsson found a goal late, it appeared that would be enough to steal all three points. Instead, her goal was canceled out by a goal from Reyna Reyes in the final minutes, meaning the points were shared.
The first half was a series of hard tasks for the Wave, as Portland’s offense was unrelenting, pressuring the San Diego defense throughout. The Thorns had 12 shots in the first 45 minutes, a stark difference from the Wave’s four.
It started immediately, as Portland sent three shots at Sheridan in a matter of seconds in the first three minutes. The Thorns came dangerously close in the sixth minute, as 2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith sent a curling shot that beat Sheridan but bounced off the crossbar. Smith, who leads the league with five assists, was the architect of Portland’s offense, creating chances for herself and others.
The Wave were able to find small amounts of success by sending long balls down the left wing to Sophia Jakobsson. She sent a ball into Alex Morgan, but her shot was straight to Thorns’ goalie Bella Bixby. A few minutes later, Jakobsson took a shot which forced Bixby to dive, but she was able to handle it.
In the 25th minute, Portland had their best chance of the first half. Morgan Weaver launched a cross towards the back post, and Hina Sugita got her foot to it. However, Sugita’s ball was parried away by Sheridan’s right leg, which she shot out at lightning speed. While the Thorns remained in control for the final 20 minutes of the half, they didn’t get any more clear looks, so the two teams left for halftime deadlocked at zero.
Casey Stoney’s team wasted no time in the second half, as they won two corners in the first eight minutes. Before the second, Stoney brought on Taylor Kornieck for Makenzy Doniak. The Wave’s increased looks on offense didn’t mean that Portland weren’t still forcing Sheridan to work hard, but the signs of life from San Diego’s attack were an improvement on anything they created in the first period.
In the 73rd minute, Portland’s attack grew stronger again as Sam Coffey sent a strike to Sheridan’s near post. She dove to block it before leaping onto it to secure the ball. Stoney went aggressive, bringing on Jaedyn Shaw and Madison Pogarch, as the Wave sought to find a winner. Alex Morgan nearly put San Diego ahead just seconds later, as her shot bounced off Bixby before just skating past the far post.
A suddenly energized Snapdragon Stadium roared as crosses and corners began to flow into the Portland box. However, just like Sheridan and the defense in the first half, Bixby and the Thorns were doing enough to keep the game level.
As the clock wound past 80 minutes, Portland grabbed the game by the horns again. The Thorns controlled the ball, working tirelessly to find a chink in San Diego’s armor. It was ultimately the Wave who broke through, though, as after a long ball to Jakobsson, she beat Bixby, who ran out for the ball. Jakobsson kept her cool, sending a powerful strike past a pair of defenders. “Today, I thought I could get the ball in the wide areas and create opportunities.”, said Jakobsson after the match. Alex Morgan nearly doubled the Wave’s lead just a minute later as her shot scraped the crossbar as it went over.
Morgan’s missed opportunity proved to be crucial just three minutes later. After Portland won a 90th-minute corner, Reyna Reyes scored her first NWSL goal. That leveled the game again, and with just three minutes of stoppage time, it proved to be the final twist in the tale. “It was a really good header; I’m not going to take anything away from that.”, said Kornieck after the match. San Diego pushed valiantly late but couldn’t find a winner.
Portland was the better team for the majority of the match, but losing a lead in the 90th minute will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the Wave.
They’ll play OL Reign on Wednesday in their second Challenge Cup match of the season. After that, they’ll head to New York to play Gotham FC, which means the Wave will need to rotate their squad. “We’ll manage our squad accordingly. I wish the NWSL would also give us the chance to manage our squad accordingly.”, said Stoney after the match.
There is still plenty of big matches this week for the Wave, who saw their winning run snapped after two matches.
Sam is a Senior in High School. He has been writing for three years, and started at EVT in June of 2021. He’s headed to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications in the fall of 2023.