The San Diego Wave came into the match with a major opportunity to take advantage of a rare slip-up from title rivals Portland Thorns, but instead were dominated by the red-hot Kansas City Current.
After a wonderful and valiant effort in Chicago, the Wave were completely unable to maintain any of their momentum in the first half, as they were absolutely dominated. Both sides relied on long passes early, but the Current quickly were able to find success up the wings.
In the seventh minute Kansas City’s Lo’eau LaBonta found herself one on one with Wave goalie Kailen Sheridan, but Sheridan forced the shot clear for a corner. However, the Current, who had over 60% of the ball in the early minutes, put the Wave under relentless pressure, tiring out the defense. In the 27th minute, the tired legs showed their effect, when Kansas City began a sharp counter. Cece Kizer worked past Naomi Girma, before firing a sharp shot through Sheridan’s legs to break the deadlock.
Kizer’s goal seemed to wake the Wave up, with Kelsey Turnbow drawing a free kick in a prominent position, but Emily Van Egmond got under it, sending it over the bar. Turnbow had been in the wars all match long, having her hair pulled in the 15th minute, and she was the subject of a vicious tackle in stoppage time. However, neither drew a yellow card. With the Wave looking to have found their place in the match, Hailie Mace hit an absolute beauty into the top right corner, stunning Sheridan and the Wave. San Diego managed to cobble some forward advances in stoppage time, but nothing came of it, and San Diego went into the half trailing by multiple goals for the first time in club history.
Wave manager Casey Stone immediately made changes to start the half with Makenzy Doniak and Madison Pogarch entering the match. The second half started with a spark for the Wave, as Turnbow found space, but shot high. San Diego continued to put pressure on Kansas City, having most of the ball for the early minutes, and Pogarch made her presence felt with a strong tackle to stifle a Current attack. San Diego’s offensive attacks began to grow stronger, beginning to put Kansas City’s defense under the same pressure the Wave had been under for most of the first half.
Despite what appeared to be minimal contact the Current were awarded a penalty. However, for the third time in as many matches, the Wave’s goalkeeper was equal to the challenge, denying Lo’eau LaBonta with a well read leap to her left. Sheridan had secured a late penalty save last time out in Chicago, while Carly Telford secured a draw with a penalty save against Louisville. Sheridan did pick up a yellow card for arguing the call, but she sent the restless Wave fans into a frenzy. After the match Stoney declined to comment on what appeared to be a questionable penalty, saying, “I’ll just get fined.”.
While the penalty seemed to give the fans something to cheer about, San Diego’s offense remained stuck in neutral. Turnbow continued to be the main driving force, with Kansas City’s defense holding Alex Morgan in check. She had scored 11 times in the Wave’s first 11 matches, but she’s been held off the scoresheet in her two matches since returning to the side. Amirah Ali and Katie Johnson entered the match as Stone attempted to force the offense forward, but Kansas City’s stout defense held firm.
Finally in the 88th minute, San Diego had their breakthrough, with Makenzy Doniak squaring the ball for substitute Amirah Ali. Ali slotted the ball past Adrianna French, giving the Wave a shot to pull off a comeback. It was Ali’s first career goal, and it came on the Wave’s only on target shot of the game. After the match she said, “I think it’s just about being more present and more energetic out there.”. San Diego was given four minutes of stoppage time to steal a point from the match. The Wave’s attack was furious, but ultimately futile, as Kansas City did just enough to seal all three points.
The second half was much better for the Wave, but their torrid first half put them in too deep of a hole to dig out of. San Diego has picked up just four points from their last four matches, leading to their drop from the top of the NWSL.
After the match Stoney took full responsibility, saying that, “this is what I get paid to do.”. San Diego will play Orlando on Saturday night, as they look to get back to winning ways.