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San Diego Wave FC 2022 Player Postmortem: Christen Westphal

Only Wave FC player to play in every single game in 2022.

Nikita Taparia

Of all the players on the San Diego Wave FC roster in 2022, only one player featured in every single game for the club, and that was right back Christen Westphal.

The veteran, who had previously featured for the Boston Breakers, Reign FC and Portland Thorns, was traded to San Diego to give Portland protection in the expansion draft. It was a trade that was probably better than an expansion draft selection, as Westphal started all but two games all year at right back. In staying healthy, fit and ready to go, Westphal certainly played her part as San Diego had the best-ever season for a pure NWSL expansion team.

Here are Westphal’s statistics with Wave FC in 2022:

Christen Westphal 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 6 540 0 1 1 0 0 0
Regular Season 22 20 1,781 0 2 1 0 0 0
Playoffs 2 2 206 0 0 0 0 1 0
Total 30 28 2,527 0 3 2 0 1 0

Westphal is not an attacking fullback, although she managed a few assists along the way. Maybe her most memorable was in the home win in the Challenge Cup over Angel City FC, when she set up Alex Morgan on this nice one-timer.

Westphal is a good NWSL pro at this point, and I was a bit surprised in the contrast between the advanced stats and the good old eye test. According to ASA’s Goals-added metric, Westphal was -0.61 for 2022, which is lower than I expected. Similarly, her scouting report graph showed her clearances were a strong suit defensively, and her playmaking attributes were good, considering she’s not really a playmaking fullback.

In contrast, when I saw Westphal play in person in 2022, I saw a player whose game translated far more live than it does on TV. She keeps the game in front of her from the backline, has good touch and consistently carries the ball forward from the defensive line up into the midfield, and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Wave FC was shockingly stacked in terms of talent for an expansion team, but every team needs players like Westphal, who are not likely to garner much individual attention or international call-ups but who can do a job week in and week out. In that regard, I think Casey Stoney’s trust in Westphal was obvious.

I don’t often remark on off-field matters in these season reviews, but I also think Westphal showed a great deal of courage in 2022 in discussing her personal journey to come to terms with her sexuality during Pride month. Her emotional message showed someone who was clearly working through accepting herself, but it was probably the most vulnerable moment of the season. I appreciate Westphal putting herself out there and I have to think her message helped at least a few people going through similar experiences, so kudos to her for that.

Westphal remains under contract with Wave FC for 2023 and I wouldn’t expect her to go anywhere. She’ll likely play a key role again next year if healthy, and with San Diego likely to lose several important players for many weeks at the World Cup, the likes of Westphal have to be ready to pick up the slack and carry on in the stars’ absence.

So all in all, I would count it a good season for Westphal, and in many ways her best yet as a pro. At her age, I don’t know that I would expect a big improvement year over year, but her consistent level and ability to stay in the lineup can’t be discounted, and I think she actually could improve over the next couple years yet. Having a position like right back that Wave FC can “set it and forget it” can be a real luxury over the course of a long campaign, and Westphal gave them that ability in 2022.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.