Alex Morgan leads Wave past Courage with her sixth goal of the season
The San Diego Wave came into North Carolina looking for a win to bounce back from their first loss of the season midweek. And bounce back they did.
San Diego Wave FC (4-0-1) narrowly defeated North Carolina Courage (0-0-3) 1-0 on Sunday, May 22nd.
Four players who started during San Diego’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars last Sunday returned to the lineup after starting on the bench for the 1-0 defeat in Louisville midweek.
Kristen McNabb, Kaleigh Riehl, Jodie Taylor, and Alex Morgan all returned to the starting lineup. Three of those four players are also the only ones to score for San Diego this season. Morgan leads the league with six, while Riehl and Taylor have each scored one.
Head coach Casey Stoney also returned to the sideline after missing the previous match through COVID-19 protocols.
San Diego tweaked their formation just a little, playing with three central defenders at the back which allowed full-backs Christen Westphal and Tegan McGrady to join into the midfield on the attack.
After the match, Stoney said the reason behind the formation change was a tactical decision based on North Carolina’s formation.
“We wanted to kind of deny their strengths,” Stoney said. “We know they play two up so we wanted to play three back and we also knew that we could transition really well central from that shape which ended up in the goal.”
The first half was somewhat uneventful for San Diego, at least on offense.
The San Diego defense saw most of the action in the first half as North Carolina had seven shot attempts to San Diego’s three. Luckily for goalkeeper Kalen Sheridan, none of the shots were on target.
It was a scorching 90 degrees out in Cary, North Carolina Sunday morning, so midway through each half the game was paused for a water break.
“The conditions were unbearable just sitting on the side, let alone playing,” Stoney said.
In the 41st minute, against the flow of the game, Taylor Kornieck won the ball in the midfield and played a beautiful ball through to Morgan. I’m sure everyone knew what was going to follow. Morgan clinically dispatched the ball into the back of the net 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper as she has been doing all season.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) May 22, 2022
The goal brought Alex Morgan to 6th in the NWSL all-time scoring list with 44 goals, passing USWNT legend Carli Lloyd.
Six minutes into the second half, San Diego had their next best opportunity to score. Kornieck again played a wonderful through ball but this time it was Tegan McGrady making a bursting run down the left flank. McGrady carried the ball into the box and hit a powerful shot across the goal but North Carolina keeper Casey Murphy was on her toes and made a fine flying save.
In the 60th minute, San Diego made two substitutions. Sofia Jakobsson and Mia Gyau came on for Christen Westphal and Mcgrady. 13 minutes later Katie Johnson and Amirah Ali were also substituted onto the pitch in exchange for Kornieck and Taylor.
San Diego looked comfortable enough to see out the final minutes of the game. In those final minutes, Ali used her fantastic ball control and skills to keep the ball away from North Carolina defenders near the corner flag, draining the final minutes off the clock.
The final whistle blew and San Diego escaped with a convincing 1-0 win. Despite North Carolina having six more shots than San Diego, both sides ended with two shots on goal in an equally offensive battle.
“Going into this game we knew that it was going to be a tough game on the road,” McGrady said. “Three games in one week and I think switching to the formation that we did, I give huge props to our team for being able to do it in two days.”
Here is what Stoney said after the match.
“Immensely proud of the shift that everyone’s put in this week. We had a disappointing result on Wednesday but the key was that today they bounced back,” Stoney said. “We changed the shape and in two days they picked it up so I have to be immensely proud with the performance and ultimately coming away with three points.”
Next, San Diego Wave will face former NWSL Challenge Cup foes, O.L Reign on Sunday, May 29th in Seattle.