The San Diego Wave absolutely dominated the match on Saturday.
Alex Morgan hit both posts with shots on goal. Kristen McNabb grazed the crossbar. The Wave had twice as many shots as the Orlando Pride.
However, due to a combination of awful refereeing and the wrath of the soccer gods, the Wave dropped their second consecutive match.
The Wave started off the first half with an immediate chance, but Kelsey Turnbow’s cross was cleared before any damage could be done. Morgan, who did not have a shot in last Sunday’s loss, did not have to wait long before her first opportunity of the match came.
In the fifth minute Morgan was through on goal, and her shot beat goalkeeper Erin McLeod, but it could not beat the woodwork. Morgan’s ball slammed into the post, proving to be a foreboding preview for the half to come. San Diego’s offense suffocated the Pride’s defense for the first 20 minutes, but could not find any goals.
In the 23rd minute, the match shifted dramatically. For the fourth time in as many matches, the Wave gave away a penalty. The Wave were ruled to have committed a handball, while manager Casey Stoney felt that the call was incorrect. She said, “If that’s a handball, the game is dead.”. While Kailen Sheridan and Carly Telford kept the first three out, that changed when Meggie Dougherty Howard slotted the penalty into the bottom left corner. Despite the Wave’s offense looking much better for the first 20 minutes, Orlando had the lead, and that seemed to embolden the Pride.
Neither team had much of an opportunity to score in the final 20 minutes of the half, which briefly saw the Wave drop to 10 women. Amirah Ali, making her first start of the season as she works her way back from an injury, was forced off for three minutes after a strong tackle. However, she returned quickly, and did not appear to struggle with mobility at any point in the half, which proved to be the lone bright spot for the Wave.
San Diego’s suffocating offense returned to start the second half, taking the ball deep into Orlando’s half time after time. A foul set up the Wave with yet another opportunity, and yet again, Alex Morgan found the woodwork with a curling left footed shot. The ball fell into the box, but was scrambled clear by the panicking Pride.
In the 66th minute Sofia Jakobsson, who had just entered to replace Ali, set up Taylor Koernick with a golden chance just feet from the empty face of the net. Koernick skied the ball, wasting arguably the best chance of the night for the Wave.
Koernick’s tall frame put her in a perfect position to score from a cross again, but Orlando’s goalkeeper timed her dive perfectly to deny the ferocious Wave. While the Pride never looked comfortable, they found a way to keep the Wave at bay. San Diego hit the woodwork for the third time, skimming the crossbar on Kristen McNabb’s header. San Diego managed to hit both posts and the crossbar, but could not find a way into the net.
For the second straight match, the Wave’s furious late push was not enough to get any points.
After the match, Kailen Sheridan was shown a red card for complaining to the referee about her poor officiating. Both Koernick and Emily Van Egmond declined to comment on the referees after the match. Koernick, Van Egmond, and Stoney all voiced their feelings that the Wave played very well and that they deserved to win, but felt that they needed to improve in the final third.
The Wave dropped to third place in the NWSL as a result, and they’ve scored just three times in the last five matches. San Diego’s picked up four points in that time, and they’ll have to find a way to change that in a week, when they’ll welcome the second placed Houston Dash for a crucial match.
San Diego was the better team tonight, but they didn’t finish their chances. The refereeing may have cost the Wave a draw, but they only have themselves to blame for not wrapping up a win. They will have to be better next week.