San Diego Wave FC are in the middle of their second week of preseason, and one big surprise for head coach Casey Stoney so far? Her team’s level of competition.
In her first job stateside, the English manager admitted she has been taken aback by just how competitive the players are.
“Listen, this group is super competitive. I’ve seen it already in every single thing we do. So I just want to harness that,” Stoney told reporters at training on Wednesday.
The moment where the cut-throat attitude really came out in the open? A cone drill during “Sunday funday” training.
“Because we already are loaded [from working all week], we played some fun stuff on Sunday and I play a little cone game and when I played it in England, you didn’t see people diving across the floor to get to the cone first. And here, like I’m looking, I’m thinking like a bomb had gone off and there was 20 players all sprawled across the floor trying to win,” said Stoney.
When asked about the cone game, goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and forward/midfielder Kelsey Turnbow shared a few knowing smiles and nudges in looking back at the fierce competition.
“It’s Sunday funday, if you’re competing, it’s a competition,” said Turnbow, a rookie who was singled out by Stoney as a standout in the cone game. “We treat it super seriously. And I think that contributes to our culture that we talked about previously. We love to have fun, but winning is fun to us. And so Sunday funday does get a little heated there. There’s gonna be diving, there’s gonna be tackling, a little maybe here and there. But it’s all fun. It all helps us come together and bond as a team. And helps us perform in the long run.”
While Stoney mentioned the pressure that North American players often deal with as youth players who are taught they can’t make mistakes and her desire to take that unnecessary pressure off them, the will to win seems to be real for everyone.
“I think we’re incredibly competitive,” said Sheridan. “I think this group has shown that since day one, we have an incredibly diverse group of talent. And I think it’s going to be up to our incredible coaching staff to kind of put those into the best channels to show it and compete against some of the top teams in the world.”
Expansion teams, including in the past in the NWSL, tend to struggle, but San Diego seems to have a better shot than most in their position for a couple reasons: The 2022 expansion teams were given plenty of resources to try to make them competitive from the jump, and a barrage of scandals around the league in recent months means nearly every team in the league has made major changes in the offseason and the balance of power may not reside with the usual dominant teams this year.
There’s no guarantee San Diego will be able to get results right away, but Turnbow is optimistic.
“Obviously, we’re just getting to know each other but our goal as a team is to compete from day one, we want to enter the league and be an expansion team that is competing for championships and competing against the best. So we bring it in practice every day. We have such a competitive environment and that’s just us training for competitive games and to get wins,” she said.
For Sheridan, who’s seen the highs and lows of playing in NWSL and is genuinely pleased to be with Wave FC, she is also optimistic the new team can make the grade.
“Yeah, absolutely. We’re here to compete. I think there will be growing pains along the way but ultimately, at the end of the day, we’re here to win and we’re here to make San Diego the best club,” said Sheridan.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.