The San Diego Wave tied OL Reign, 1-1 at Torero Stadium in the final match of San Diego’s inaugural Challenge Cup campaign.
The previous meeting between the two sides was on April 14 at Lumen Field in Seattle and resulted in a 3-1 win for the Reign.
Despite already being eliminated from semi-final contention, the Wave put up a great fight against OL Reign, the current Challenge Cup leaders in points.
“Overall super proud of the team in terms of their reaction from the two previous games,” head coach Casey Stoney said. “We showed real grit, resilience, desire, and I thought we defended so much better than we did in the previous games.”
“Coming off a tough couple of losses on the road, I think our mentality has been really good this week,” Jodie Taylor said. I think we started really aggressively but were unfortunate with the goal we let in and obviously losing Kelsey late on in the game. But I think it was a gritty performance against a very good OL Reign team.”
The Wave made four changes from their previous 3-2 loss against the Portland Thorns at Providence Park on April 17. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan made her return to the No. 1 spot after returning from international duty with the Canadian national team. Both Kristen McNabb and Abby Dahlkemper didn’t feature in the Wave squad, With Kaleigh Reihl and Taylor Kornieck filling their spots. Taylor dropped to the bench while Kelsey Turnbow joined the starting lineup.
Dahlkemper missed the match due to Covid-19 protocols, and Mcnabb was suspended after receiving her second consecutive yellow in the last match.
Twelve minutes into the half and the Reign scored the first goal of the game. After a 50-50 between Sheridan and Bethany Balcer that left Balcer on the floor in heaps of pain, the ball was cleared right into the path of Ally Watt, who placed the ball into an empty net. Following the play, Sheridan was booked for her challenge on Balcer.
Apart from that first goal, the first half was pretty underwhelming offensively for both teams.
The Wave had some good passages of play but never really looked like a threat on goal with their finishing.
There were also a few occasions where the Wave’s defense gave the ball away too easily, which was one of Reign’s primary sources of attack in that first half.
With one minute elapsed from the five minutes of added time before the end of the half, the Wave won their first corner of the match. The corner was whipped in by Turnbow and pinballed around the box. The ball eventually found its way onto the arm of a Reign defender, and the referee swiftly blew the whistle for a penalty.
With poise and precision, Alex Morgan stepped up to the plate and dispatched the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal. That’s now four goals in six games for the Wave’s superstar, leading all Wave scorers.
To start the second half, Taylor came in for the goalscorer Morgan in a surprise substitution.
“That was a forced change, she had tightened up, and obviously, we don’t want to risk that.
After a rather uneventful first 25 minutes, Stoney proceeded to make her final substitutions. In the 58th minute, Marleen Schimmer came on for Bella Briede, and in the 68th minute Amirah Ali came on for Sofia Jakobsson.
In the 80 minute, the game turned on its head. After the ball deflected off the referee and ended in the feet of a Reign player, Turnbow slid in for a tackle and left the Reign player in tons of pain. Initially, the referee let Turnbow off with a warning, but after further time passed with the Reign player on the floor with the medical staff, the referee eventually changed her mind. The referee called Turnbow back and showed her her second yellow card, followed by a red, sending Turnbow off and leaving the Wave down a player.
Many Wave players, including head coach Stoney, voiced their frustration regarding how the referee officiated that play.
“The referee should’ve stopped the game,” Stoney said. “We need to be better at adhering to the rules, so that’s disappointing.”
The following 10 minutes of the match would feature jeers by the fans towards the ref every time the whistle was blown.
The San Diego Wave had one last chance to win the game following a corner at the end of the game, but Kornieck saw her shot go wide of the post.
The referee blew the final whistle to end a back-and-forth match where the spoils were split evenly between the two sides.
The Wave marked the end of their inaugural Challenge Cup season with a 1-1 draw against OL Reign.
In regards to how this team has progressed over the course of the Challenge Cup, Taylor feels that this San Diego team has had plenty of growth.
“We’re only going to keep growing and getting stronger and stronger,” Taylor said. “As players, I think we kind of forget how new we are. We’ve only been together for 12 weeks, so if you think of it like that. I’m really pleased with where we’re at and the performance we had today.”
Next, the San Diego Wave will play last year’s Challenge Cup winners, Houston Dash FC, winners to open up their regular season on Sunday, May 1, in Houston.