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San Diego Wave FC’s history against the Portland Thorns

Ahead of the biggest game in their short existence, a look back.

Brenton Tse

San Diego Wave FC get at least one more game in their 2022 campaign, in the NWSL playoff semifinal against the Portland Thorns at Providence Park on Sunday, with a place in the Championship final on the line for the winner.

While it’s been a debut season for San Diego, they’ve got more experience against the Thorns this year than nearly any team in the league, and perhaps that will suit them as they prepare to spring the upset. Ahead of the big game, here’s a look back at the previous meetings between the teams this year:

All-time record: Wave FC have 1W-2L-1D across all competitions

The bottom line is as the year’s wore on, San Diego have gotten better against the Thorns. Here’s hoping that means a crushing win on Sunday, but they seem to have figured out adjustments as they’ve gone and that’s translated to playing better and eventually getting results.

Mar. 26: Wave FC 0, Thorns 1

In San Diego’s first home game and second competitive game overall, they hosted Portland at Torero Stadium in the Challenge Cup group stage. Sophia Smith scored the game-winner in the 5th minute, as San Diego’s defense struggled to defend the outside-in approach taken by Rhian Wilkinson’s Portland side.

On the bright side, Wave FC seemed to figure out this issue during this game and didn’t allow many goals this easy the rest of the way. But, still a loss to start things out between the foes.

Apr. 17: Thorns 3, Wave FC 2

Another loss for San Diego in the Challenge Cup, but this one was a bit of a moral victory for the team. San Diego conceded three goals in the first half, one to Smith and a brace for Hina Sugita, and it looked like it would be a rather embarrassing loss. Instead, Belle Briede scored her first goal as a pro right after the second half started, before Taylor Kornieck put the Thorns under real pressure with a goal in the 67th minute immediately after entering the game. Ultimately they came up short, but in a game of two halves, Wave FC ended up winning one of them.

June 8: Wave FC 2, Thorns 2

In the regular season, San Diego seemed to have found their footing and they were a much improved side against Portland. Still, that didn’t mean they found it easy, particularly in the first clash against the Thorns, in which the Wave once again came back from a multigoal deficit, this time finding the important equalizer to get a result. Stop me if you heard this before, but Sophia Smith opened the scoring for Portland, and Christine Sinclair made it 2-0 in the opening minute of the second half, but — stop me if you heard this before — Kornieck scored late for San Diego, with a brace in the final 10 minutes, to make it 2-2. It was a dramatic finish and reason for optimism moving forward.

Aug. 27: Thorns 0, Wave FC 2

The best showing to date for San Diego against Portland came in this match, which was at Providence Park and featured Wave FC thoroughly outplaying the Thorns for a 2-0 win. Alex Morgan set up Kristen McNabb on the first goal...

...before scoring the insurance tally just before halftime.

That win was probably the best total result and performance of the regular season and Casey Stoney made that clear to the team on the field after the game, telling them they can do better things still.

And that’s the goal Sunday in Portland. San Diego now have a playoff win under their belts, but winning a second playoff game, on the road, is a much tougher test. Still, they’ve shown they can hang with the Thorns, even when they haven’t gotten the result, but a win here will get them a game from winning the league title, and wouldn’t that be incredible? LFGSD!

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