It was a night of firsts, for San Diego Wave FC and their opponent Angel City FC, but the NWSL expansion teams split the points on Saturday in their debut match, by a 1-1 scoreline at Titan Stadium in the 2022 Challenge Cup.
San Diego went down early in the second half but withstood the pressure and moments of magic from Angel City, with Wave FC putting their opponents under considerable pressure early and late in the game, and found a timely equalizer to ensure a result in their first game in club history.
Casey Stoney’s first starting XI mostly featured players we expected, with the notable exception of Alex Morgan, still working back to fitness after a preseason knock and starting on the bench. Abby Dahlkemper captained the inaugural match for Wave FC.
The early minutes were unsurprisingly a feeling-out period for both teams, but San Diego goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was pressed into action in the 8th minute when Christen Press unleashed a rocket that forced a save from the Canadian, the ball then ricocheting off the crossbar.
Katie Johnson nearly had the opener for San Diego about five minutes later, but her halfway bicycle attempt didn’t quite come off.
After a flurry for the first 25 minutes, the remainder of the first half settled down, and both teams slowed down and tried to play their game. All in all, San Diego had the better of the first 45, aside from Press’ rocket stopped by Sheridan, but Wave FC edged the run of play, without either team getting a goal for their efforts.
Morgan entered the game at halftime, along with Kaleigh Riehl, who replaced Dahlkemper, hopefully a pre-planned sub. Morgan replaced Ali, who had some sharp moments in the buildup in her professional debut.
But Angel City turned into a higher gear in the second 45, with Savannah McCaskill finding the breakthrough in the 49th minute, heading in Ali Riley’s early cross on the doorstep, with Sheridan unable to stop the game’s first goal.
Angel City nearly doubled their lead in the 55th minute, as Tyler Lussi had a breakaway that also bested Sheridan, only for her tap-in to clang off the post, saving San Diego’s blushes.
Bella Briede made her NWSL debut in the 65th minute, replacing Johnson. Marleen Schimmer then entered for Kelsey Turnbow in the 70th minute. Sofia Jakobsson replaced Jodie Taylor in the 75th minute, the Swedish international a surprise inclusion in the matchday squad for San Diego after just arriving to California.
San Diego found their breakthrough in the 81st minute, with Riehl chesting the ball in the net off a corner kick to tie up the game.
I think it was a decent showing for the first-ever game. There’s plenty to work on in the weeks and months ahead, but San Diego showed real ability to take the game to an opponent, scramble when being pegged back and cope with an unfortunate game state. Considering this game was also on the road, the result was probably fair and this is definitely something to build on for Stoney and the squad.
One game down in their history, but there’s a bunch more on tap. Next up, a debut meeting against Portland Thorns next Saturday at Torero Stadium.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.