Takeaways from SD Wave’s first-ever Challenge Cup campaign

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Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

The San Diego Wave recently capped off their inaugural run at the NWSL Challenge Cup with a 1-1 tie against OL Reign April 23.

It was a Challenge Cup where the Wave went 1-3-2, scoring nine goals and conceding 11.

Players who managed to score their first goals during the cup were: Alex Morgan with 4, Amirah Ali, Bella Briede, Taylor Kornieck, Kaleigh Riehl, and Jodie Taylor, who all have one each.

Kaleigh Riehl was the one to score the first goal in Wave history during the inaugural game against Angel City that ended in a 1-1 tie.


Wave set television viewing history

San Diego received their first win in club history in style.

Over 5,000 fans were in attendance at Torero Stadium to watch the 4-2 victory against Angel City on April 2. The match that saw Morgan score a brace, alongside goals by Taylor and Ali, was also broadcasted nationally on CBS.

The historic match for the Wave also drew in an enormous television audience of 456,000 and ranked amongst other notable leagues such as the Premier League and MLS while outperforming nationally-televised NHL games that same weekend.

As a result of San Diego’s immense viewership, The Wave has earned two additional CBS national broadcasts during the 2022 regular season. The first will come on June 19 at NJ/NY Gotham FC, and the next comes on September 10 at Washington Spirit.

Credit: TikTic Photos/ EVT Sports

The three total nationally televised CBS games are the most amongst all NWSL clubs this season.

“It’s really exciting for us to have that exposure and be able to show how good we are with it being our first season,” Christen Westphal said.

“We feel fortunate, and we’re happy that we get to play on CBS again a couple of times this year,” Taylor said. “I hope we just keep getting the exposure and the attention that the game deserves.”


Some interesting statistics

In terms of offensive statistics. San Diego was No.5 in the league in goals and No.4 in assists. A great statistic for a team in their inaugural season.

Also, all nine of San Diego’s goals have come within the box, showing their confidence in moving the ball closer towards the goal for an easier look.

Throughout the entire cup, the Wave showed a desire to play attacking football and push the ball forward. Over 44% of the Wave’s passes were directed forward, while less than 16% were directed backward.

San Diego was also No.3 in total shots and No.2 in shots on target.

The Wave had a solid season offensively, creating plenty of opportunities to score. But if the Wave want to cement themselves as one of the top teams in the league, the defense is going to have to work just as hard as the offense.

The Wave conceded an average of 1.8 goals per game, which is not a good ratio. Especially when that ratio is higher than your goals per game, which it currently is as San Diego scores 1.5 goals per game.

Credit: Cali Camera/ EVT Sports

San Diego was also No. 5 in yellow cards, with Tegan Mcgrady leading the league in yellow cards at 3.


San Diego needs to prevent conceding goals in the first half

Of the 11 goals San Diego has conceded throughout this cup, nine of them have come in the first half.

That’s an astonishing statistic considering that San Diego scored nine goals themselves this season.

Of the 12 teams in the cup, seven teams couldn’t manage to score nine goals throughout the entire cup. So for San Diego to concede nine goals in only the first halves throughout the cup, it truly says something about the way this Wave team starts a game.

Coming into the second half, the Wave is a completely different team defensively. In their games, they conceded two second-half goals. 


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Alex Morgan is a game-changer offensively

Now let’s talk about the main story. I’m sorry if you didn’t know this, but Alex Morgan is one of the best strikers of all time. And she proved it throughout this cup.

Morgan was the only Wave player to score more than one goal for the team. She scored four.

Those four goals placed Morgan tied for second in the cup for most goals, sitting one behind Washington Spirit FC’s Ashley Hatch. 

Credit: Josh Jimenez/EVT Sports

Morgan also led the league in shots with 20 and shots on goal with 13. That’s a 65% shot percentage which is incredible with such a high volume of shots.

Morgan also took 30% of San Diego’s shots and ranked sixth for the Wave in minutes played.

“Alex has been incredible for us,” head coach Casey Stoney said. “I think she’s in the best form she’s been in in the last two years. You know, I think she’s really putting a marker down, and I think internationally, she’ll definitely be looking at getting back in that squad. She’s leading the way for us at the moment, and I’ve been really proud of her performances.”

The San Diego Wave will begin their start to their first NWSL with a match against Houston Dash on Sunday, May 1, at PNC Stadium in Houston, Texas.

“Hopefully, we gave the San Diego community something to be proud of and something to get behind going into Houston,” Stoney said.

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