There were whispers for many watching San Diego Wave FC’s debut match against Angel City FC on Saturday, concerning the status of star players Alex Morgan and Abby Dahlkemper.
Morgan started the match on the bench and entered at the halftime break, while Dahlkemper, who captained the team in the first half, made way at the break for Kaleigh Riehl, who ended up scoring San Diego’s equalizer in a 1-1 draw at Titan Stadium in Fullerton.
But Wave FC head coach Casey Stoney indicated in the penultimate week of preseason that both U.S. internationals had been dealing with injury in training camp and at that point were only getting up to speed in full training. She confirmed Morgan and Dahlkemper were on a minutes restriction for the inaugural match.
“We could only give 45 to Abby, 45 to Alex but it was good to get those on the pitch...and look at what we could potentially build for the future,” Stoney told reporters after the game.
“It was because Alex wasn’t able to start the game due to the fact she’s building back up to fitness and I wanted to utilize her when the game was open. And she obviously came on in a wide area, Jodie Taylor played in the 9 if you watched the game and she did effective for us there,” Stoney elaborated when asked where Morgan was to start the game.
Ever the professional, Morgan understood the brief coming into the match.
“it was a decision that Casey made and I was able to play 45. She thought it would be better utilized in the second half. I definitely agreed with her,” said Morgan. “I think a lot of times in the first half, defenses are way more organized, way more aggressive. And I think that we saw that a lot with [Taylor] as a 9 and kind of really getting hit from behind quite frequently. I think it definitely opened up the last 25 minutes of the second half. So I hope from here on out now I’ll be able to gain more minutes and kind of be unlimited in that aspect. But obviously whenever I play in front of kind of a big crowd like tonight, I always want to play as much as possible, but at the at the same time I knew the restrictions tonight and I was happy to support the team on the bench in the first half.”
Of course, the status of a couple players wasn’t the entire story of the night, given it was the first-ever game for both teams involved.
With over 6,000 announced fans in attendance on the night, the charge at the game was special, according to the participants.
“The atmosphere was incredible. I couldn’t actually hear myself think because the music was so loud and I thought the fans were incredible. The atmosphere was great. One of the best atmospheres I’ve coached in. It’s going to be a real rivalry that’s going to continue to grow. So that’s pleasing,” said Stoney.
For Morgan, a California native who said she’s been waiting for pro women’s soccer to return to the state her entire career, the thrill was arguably greater.
“I mean, it’s so great to play in California in general and then just being 15 minutes away from where I grew up, is really fun. I’ve I have a lot of memories on this field and then to see a packed stadium, I was really grateful to play Angel City but just in general for all of us to play our first game official game of the year in front of this many fans was really fun,” she said.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.