San Diego Wave FC came home to a packed Torero Stadium, ready to face OL Reign, a team with multiple USWNT stars, including icon Megan Rapinoe and midfielder Rose Lavelle.
Last time these two teams faced each other, San Diego suffered a 1-0 defeat.
Eager to exact revenge, this time at home, the Wave sought to start strong and did so brilliantly. The Wave seemed to constantly be on the front foot, dominating the first 10 minutes of the match.
Seven minutes after the initial whistle, from her own box, world-class goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan booted up a ball onto the foot of hero forward Alex Morgan. She took a brilliant first touch and ran onto it just as the OL Reign goalkeeper took position at the front post. With the center back on her shoulder breathing down her neck, Alex Morgan showed all the fans at Torero her class as she slotted a left-footed strike into the far bottom corner. The stadium erupted as the Wave’s #13 put away her ninth goal of the campaign to date.
Morgan and the rest of the Wave players were overjoyed with this early lead but wanted to keep themselves away from complacency.
Some brilliant Tiki-Taka-esque one-touch passing by the team from Seattle tore open the Wave’s strong defensive line. Jess Fishlock got through the back line and tucked away a chance created by her OL Reign teammate Lavelle into the top netting. A brilliant finish and a well-worked goal, nothing unexpected from a well-historied NWSL side. This 38th-minute strike brought the game even right before half-time, which allowed the managers to execute their game plans with nothing to lose, as all things stood square.
Coming out of the break, Reign manager Laura Harvey made the change that was key in the result, which was bringing on Megan Rapinoe. The creator of the attacking prowess of the USWNT was the perfect impact super-sub. She stuffed any chances of the Wave getting anything more than 1 point from this encounter. On the left wing, Rapinoe was giving the Wave’s defense something to worry about, especially when she found her teammates on the other side of the pitch. When she switched the ball, it left the left-back of San Diego in a difficult spot, as often opposing players were able to exploit Kristen McNabb. Kelsey Turnbow was the Wave’s offensive lifeblood this match, even though she was in an unfamiliar position at striker. Typically on the wing, Turnbow was creating a lot of chances early on, even if the Wave only were able to muster two shots on target all game. Although Casey Stoney made substitutions for her offense, it was clearly not enough.
The second half was dominated by counter-attacking chances that led to opportunities for OL. The only opportunities that came from San Diego were corners that eventually led to nothing. Naomi Girma, SD’s top draft pick in this inaugural season, was on fire this game, as her and her goalkeeper Sheridan prevented chances that could have made it an embarrassing home defeat for the Wave. It’s no wonder she was the NWSL Rookie of the Month. A deserved award for a deserving player of the highest caliber. It will be exciting to see her blossom into a brick wall for San Diego.
Now coming off three straight draws, the Wave are in an interesting position. They’ve played more games than most other teams, as the teams in all remaining playoff spots have one game in hand on Casey Stoney’s army. Although they currently sit in first, it is all very temporary, and the best way for the Wave to bounce back is with a win against Gotham FC on June 19th.