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San Diego Wave FC 2022 Player Postmortem: Amirah Ali

Rookie showed glimpses of her skills in 2022.

San Diego Wave FC v OL Reign - 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Amirah Ali was one of San Diego Wave FC’s huge rookie class in 2022, she was one of professional newcomers who saw the most playing time at the club, but there was a common refrain for the attacker among fans: Free Amirah.

On a roster that was more than competitive, but actually strong, Ali had to fight for playing time. She got it, but primarily off the bench as she became one of Casey Stoney’s regular “gamechangers.” She showed promise in that role, although again, I think fans hoped she would see even more playing time.

The Rutgers product returned to NCAA soccer after being drafted by the Portland Thorns in 2021, and had another year to hone her game before joining the NWSL. That final year produced her best production of her college run, and as a forward/winger who had a burst of pace and was capable of mixing it up with opposing defenders, she was a player many were excited to see.

Here are Ali’s stats with San Diego in 2022:

Amirah Ali San Diego Wave FC 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Challenge Cup 6 1 187 1 0 7 3 0 0
Regular Season 18 4 540 2 1 12 11 0 0
Playoffs 2 0 19 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 26 5 746 3 1 20 14 0 0

Ultimately, Ali finished tied for third on the team in scoring across all competitions. Her first goal came in Wave FC’s first-ever win, over Angel City, where she created a goal out of nothing:

Her next two goals came in August. This one was a classic striker’s goal, making the run and poking home the cross.

And her final goal of the season was a poacher’s goal, just battering in and making sure the ball goes over the line:

Ali started Wave FC’s first-ever game, but she was primarily used as a substitute, with only a consistent run as a starter in August, when she got the nod for three straight games. Considering Alex Morgan had a career year and by and large San Diego didn’t need to swing for the fences, I think Stoney brought Ali along somewhat slowly to get her adjusted to the pro game. Stoney did mention for a good chunk of the season that Ali was working on her fitness, coming back from an early knock or two and the coach may have genuinely believed she wasn’t yet ready to be a regular starter. Add to that, her profile as a goalbound winger gave Wave FC a different look, so bringing her off the bench was a solid strategy to literally change games for the team.

Ali’s scouting report graph on shows a player who is a great dribbler, has potential in terms of attacking contributions, and is a remarkably good defender for her position.

At the absolute minimum, this shows Ali is a more-than-capable “defensive forward” in the NWSL, often a euphemism for second strikers who seldom score, but her defensive numbers are legitimately impressive as an attacker.

Ali’s contract option was picked up by San Diego for 2023, and I expect her to grow in her game next season. If she can stay healthy, she should get plenty of run with next year being a World Cup year and several Wave FC players likely to be away for weeks of the season, that would be a good opportunity for the attacker. If Stoney really did keep Ali’s minutes somewhat low to prevent her from hitting the “Rookie Wall,” then hopefully she will be ready for more in Year 2, and Stoney will deploy her more often as well. If that happens, and she hits a rhythm, she could be the breakout player so many were hoping to see fully blossom this year. And if that’s the case, then San Diego will have yet another key player contributing regularly and in a variety of ways. Here’s hoping we see that big step forward from Amirah Ali in 2023.

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