Magic is in the San Diego air this weekend.
Following a historic comeback win for the Padres to advance to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 1998 and keep their playoff hearts beating, the San Diego Wave FC increased the city’s chances of winning a championship with a comeback quarterfinal victory in their first National Women’s Soccer League playoff appearance.
The Wave, dubbed the first NWSL expansion team to ever reach the playoffs in their first season, came back in the second half to defeat the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in extra time on Sunday, Oct. 16, in front of an NWSL playoff record crowd of 26,215.
“There’s only one team I believe in the league that can come back constantly as they do, and it’s that team in there (the locker room),” head coach Casey Stoney said.
Although Alex Morgan scored the game-winning goal, Sofia Jakobsson, who was substituted in the second half, was the deciding factor for the Wave. The Swedish forward had the game-tying assist to Emily Van Egmond and was the spark on offense in the second half.
“I thought she was outstanding the way she drove at the full-back, the way she got down the sides, the way she delivered crosses,” Stoney said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to play against her tonight.”
Padres’ players Josh Hader and Steven Wilson were presented before the game while Mike Clevinger and Joe Musgrove were also in attendance, celebrating their Division Series win over the Dodgers and also inspiring the Wave to replicate the playoff victory.
Ten minutes into the game and San Diego handicapped their chances of victory. After a sequence of passing on defense, Sheridan misplaced her pass to Kaleigh Riehl, and forward Yūki Nagasato latched onto it, lobbing the ball over Sheridan for an early lead.
Late in the first half, San Diego started to pick up momentum and shift the tide of the match.
In the three added minutes before the end of the first half Morgan got one last opportunity at goal but saw her header saved by Chicago’s flying goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
San Diego maintained their strong energy into the second half. Another shot went just wide of the post early in the half, this time Van Egmond catching the ball on the volley.
Van Egmond did not have to wait much longer before getting an opportunity to redeem herself. After coming on in the second half, Sofia Jakobsson pressured the Chicago back line, and on this particular occasion, she saw her cross get into the box towards Van Egmond, who placed her volley on the inside of the post to tie the game in the 67th minute.
Nothing could split the two teams heading into the final moments of regular time; extra time was needed in order for either team to come out victorious.
San Diego continued to push the tempo in extra time and finally got the moment they had been waiting for all game. Five minutes into the half Morgan found herself on the edge of the box and whipped an audacious shot across the box that squeezed into the corner of the goal, illuminating the Snapdragon crowd.
“I kind of got the opportunity to go low and hard to the far post and just took my opportunity,” Morgan said.
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“That’s why for me, Alex is MVP,” Stoney said. “Cause in big matches, she turns up.”
The goal was enough to secure the win, capping off a beautiful weekend for the city of San Diego.
Next, the San Diego Wave will face off against the Portland Thorns in the NWSL semifinals at Providence Park on Sunday, October 23.
Morgan Prickett is currently studying Journalism at San Diego State and is on pace to graduate in 2023. He was born in Libreville, Gabon and lived in Pretoria, South Africa for 7 years until he moved to the Bay Area. He’s a massive soccer and basketball fan; mainly supporting Arsenal of the English Premier League and any team Chris Paul is on. He’s also an avid supporter of all sports teams in San Diego and loves watching all San Diego State sports.