Sloppy Wave washed away in 3–1 loss

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

The San Diego Wave had been off to a fantastic start to the season, winning three of their first four matches.

The visiting Orlando Pride hadn’t picked up a point from any of their first four. However, a trio of goals, each more spectacular than the last, powered the Pride to their first competitive win in 252 days.

The first 45 minutes of the game was a tale of two halves, with 18-year-old Jaedyn Shaw the star of the first. With Alex Morgan, Amirah Ali, and Taylor Kornieck all on the bench, Shaw was the leader of the San Diego attack. She was absolutely spectacular in that role, as she dropped into the midfield to send deep passes before getting forward to provide pressure of her own.  

While Makenzy Doniak made a run down the right wing, Shaw raced through the midfield to get herself into the box. When Doniak’s cross was weak, Shaw devilishly darted towards the ball to put herself into position. She sent the ball past Anna Moorhouse and into the net, but her goal might have been the least impressive part of the play. Her intelligence and game understanding to put herself into position showed wisdom well beyond her years. She wasn’t done making plays, as she sent a perfectly weighted ball to Doniak just minutes later. Doniak rounded Moorhouse, but Emily Madril cleared the shot off the line to keep the Wave’s lead at just one. “It was the best I’ve seen us start this season,” manager Casey Stoney said after the match.

However, Orlando began to improve around the 20th minute, as they seemed to grow into the game well. They got a helping hand in the 26th minute when Naomi Girma made a rare mistake. Her misplayed touch on a long ball meant goalie Kailen Sheridan had to redirect it out of bounds for a corner. That corner led to another, which led to Mikayla Cluff sending a header into the net. Adriana sent in a perfect ball to the back post, and Cluff rose highest to level the game at one.

Credit: Deanna Gold/ EVT Sports

The Pride wasn’t done with great headers, though, as they came up with another one in the 42nd minute. Haley McCutcheon sent a header in from 15 yards out, but it flew perfectly into the far corner of the net. Sheridan was powerless to stop McCutcheon’s second career goal, which sent Orlando into the lead for the first time in NWSL play in 2023. After the match, Stoney disappointingly repeated that they were “sloppy mistakes” that cost the Wave. 

Shaw nearly had a second goal just minutes into the second half. Sofia Jakobsson snaked down the left side before pulling the ball back and sending it across. Shaw decided to shoot at the near post, but she sent it inches left, so the Wave stayed behind. After Doniak won a free kick in a dangerous position, Shaw sent a low-bouncing shot in. Moorhouse parried it, but the ball fell to Kristen McNabb. McNabb was put into such a tight angle that she couldn’t finish, so her shot flew into the side of the net. 

Orlando seemed to have no trouble moving through the Wave’s midfield. In order to try and combat that, Stoney took off the struggling Rachel Hill, replacing her with Amirah Ali in the 64th minute. 

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It made little difference. Five minutes later, Adriana scored when she and Erika Tymrak ran the length of the pitch. They were hardly pressured, and Adriana sent a shot perfectly into the bottom left corner, doubling the Pride’s advantage. That prompted another change from Stoney, as she brought on 15-year-old Melanie Barcenas to make her professional debut. Barcenas made an instant impact, as she sent in a ball for Shaw that nearly cut into the deficit. 

The dagger to the heart of the Wave’s hopes came in the 89th minute when Amirah Ali’s fantastic goal was ruled out because Ali had started her run too soon. Despite the chorus of complaints hurled at the referees from the crowd, Ali had strayed just offside. 

The Orlando Pride came across the entire country, having scored one goal in four NWSL matches this year. They put three past the defending goalkeeper of the year. While the Wave was without superstar Alex Morgan, it was a frustrating and inexcusable loss for San Diego. “They {Orlando} broke well tonight when we gave them the ball, but we gave them the ball. It’s disappointing from us.”, said Stoney after the match.

“We just didn’t play a full 90 {minutes} tonight.”, said Doniak after the match. She and Stoney both stressed that there was no time to dwell on their mistakes. They’ll head to the nation’s capital to play the Washington Spirit next weekend, kicking off a three-game road trip.

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