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San Diego Wave FC 2022 Player Postmortem: Taylor Kornieck

Midfielder was a revelation for Wave FC.

Courtesy of San Diego Wave FC

Taylor Kornieck was by far the biggest revelation in the NWSL, and arguably, American women’s soccer, in 2022. Going from a player who was undeniably tall but raw at Orlando Pride, it was unclear coming into her debut season with San Diego Wave FC where she would play and how exactly she fit in the plans of head coach Casey Stoney.

It turned out, she was vital. Kornieck became the centerpiece of Stoney’s midfield, using her size well in deploying a two-way game and showing considerable skill and ability to affect games a number of ways. On a team where three of her teammates won NWSL individual season awards, Kornieck still has a credible case to be Wave FC’s MVP for the year.

In fact, Kornieck was so good with San Diego that she broke through on the U.S. Women’s National Team this year, not only getting her first call-up, scoring on her senior debut, but became one of a few debutants to slot straightaway into competitive play, as the U.S. won the 2022 Concacaf W Championship. To say 2022 was a great year for Kornieck professionally would be an understatement.

Here are Kornieck’s statistics with San Diego in 2022:

Taylor Kornieck 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 5 429 1 1 10 3 0 0
Regular Season 18 17 1,367 3 3 36 13 4 0
Playoffs 2 2 191 1 0 3 6 0 0
Total 26 24 1,987 5 4 49 22 4 0

Playing as a No. 8 most of the time for San Diego, Kornieck really did carry off the two-way play asked of her with aplomb. In particular, she had consistent chemistry with Alex Morgan, who moved to San Diego from Orlando with her, and Kornieck had a lot of success finding Morgan with a fairly unique chip shot pass, the midfielder usually hitting a small diagonal about 15-20 yards to the forward around the edge of the opponent’s 18-yard box. With four assists total on the year for Wave FC, there’s reason to believe Kornieck can build some additional playmaking chops.

But that’s just one arrow for her attacking bow. Kornieck is adept at using her size to body defenders on set pieces or in the run of play and score. But she can also ghost a defender to find space to score easily, like she did in the playoff game against Portland off a cross from Morgan:

In fact, Kornieck liked to score on the Thorns in particular, as here was her brace in a home draw in June:

Kornieck was not literally just a tall gal, she’s got chops. Across all club competitions in 2022, she was fourth in the NWSL in ASA’s Goals-added metric, of +4.71. The only players who ranked ahead of her was league MVP Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman and Mal Pugh. To be a central midfielder in that rarefied air is a sign of quality, indeed. Even Morgan, who had a career year, only managed +2.96 in Goals+.

Given Kornieck’s offensive contributions tend to dominate the discussion, let’s take a look at her scouting report graph on You can see just how dominant her game is on all sides of the ball.

Needless to say, this is exceptional stuff, and it got lost in the shuffle how Kornieck ended up getting snubbed in the season awards. Again, she had a case to be an MVP candidate, but more surprising she was shut out of both of the Best XI teams. Some of that is likely voters trying to spread the love around the teams, some of that is there were a lot of good players to honor, some was how the Best XI voting lumps in forwards, wingers and midfielders all in one pot, so of course the slots mostly got filled by pure attackers. But make no mistake: Kornieck deserved to be counted among the league’s best for the season she had.

Along with Kailen Sheridan and Naomi Girma, and probably for at least a couple more years, Morgan, Kornieck is a foundational piece for San Diego to build around for the next several years. If she can stay healthy — she picked up an ankle injury down the stretch that limited her at the end of the season, although she did come back to play major minutes in the playoffs — she can be a perennial top player in the league and become one of the biggest names in American soccer.

It will be interesting to see if she makes the squad for the 2023 World Cup. I think she currently has a good shot, but it’s far from a given at this point. One of the good things with a new regime all around at U.S. Soccer is the women’s national team players are no longer basically given yearlong contracts to be USWNT players. That means that players like Kornieck, who come in from nowhere, really, to be in the reckoning for playing time, don’t get shut out because they’re not under contract. In other words, her progression to the national team this year came because the system itself is no longer so restrictive. In years past, she would have gotten a few caps, then waited to see if she would get a full contract from U.S. Soccer in a year or two. To get to a World Cup, it might be too late to get the nod.

So now things are more open, but the competition remains fierce. Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan and Julie Ertz could beat her to a call-up for the World Cup, but all three have injury and/or fitness concerns that leaves the door open for a player like Kornieck. I would love to see her at the World Cup, even though that means she would need to be away from San Diego for a while, but we’ll see if that dream becomes a reality in 2023.

All in all, Kornieck may have been the single most improved player in the NWSL in 2022, with a team that built around her prodigious gifts and just let her play. Kornieck acknowledged she had to take a step up, on and off the field, and credited Stoney for helping unlock what it took to make her a top player. Hopefully this is just the beginning, because Taylor Kornieck really is a special player.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.