History continues to be made by San Diego Wave FC. After getting the win in the opening round, San Diego hit the road to face off against Portland Thorns, a team who are no strangers to playoff soccer. For the Wave, they continue to raise the bar of what can be done by and expansion team, as they looked to really shock the world and stamp their ticket to the NWSL Championship.
The best thing you can do when you're an inexperienced squad going up against a very experienced side in a match like this, is score early, and hopefully, often. San Diego heeded that first part, wasting zero time in getting the first goal of the day. With just about all day to cook, Alex Morgan threw some meat on the grill, fried the defender with a hesitation, went through about ten different reads, and eventually lofted a perfect ball to the tallest player on the pitch who also happened to be wide open in the box. Taylor Kornieck didn't need a second invite to the cookout, and headed home the early goal for the lead. It was the perfect start for the visitors.
The thing about having been there before, is you don't tend to panic when hit in the mouth right away. Instead, Portland settled in, and settled the score just minutes after going down. Kornieck did really well to clear out the dangerous ball towards the goal, unfortunately her header wasn’t quite strong enough as it landed to an awaiting Rocky Rodríguez. Despite being at the edge of the box, with defenders close, Rodriguez realized the quickest way to a point is a straight line. Being hit by a rocket-fueled right foot doesn't hurt either. The strike went past Sheridan, and into the net for the equalizer and we were right back to start.
The two quick goals were the only ones we would see before the halftime break, where the two sides went into all evened up. The second half was much of the same as the first, minus the two goals. Portland appeared to start taking control of the match, finding the space and working San Diego to their will. However, the expansion side did incredibly well to not only defend, but keep calm in the face of all the pressure they were facing. Tensions only grew as the clock continued to wind down further and further.
As the match entered stoppage time in regulation, it was clear the Wave were hanging on for dear life. Hoping to see an extra 30 minutes to gather themselves and come away with an unlikely winner, it wasn't to be courtesy of a returning Crystal Dunn. With just minutes left to go, Portland got off one last push to finish this one off before the final whistle, and Dunn delivered from a corner, when her side needed her the most. The goal was unfortunately enough to send San Diego home in one of the most entertaining matches we’ve seen this season.
The final whistle blew shortly after the goal, and the clock struck midnight on the magical season from the expansion side. An historic run that will surely only serve as an incredible foundation to build from going forward. There is absolutely nothing for this team to hang their heads over, despite their season coming to an end this afternoon. While they didn't win it all, they sure as hell made Waves, en route to the best season this league has ever seen from an expansion side.
How are you feeling after the match? Leave a comment below!