FULLERTON, California — While the talk around the NWSL has been surrounding the Los Angeles team to make their debut this past Saturday, it’s important to remember another team was making its much anticipated NWSL debut as well. Your San Diego Wave FC! Sure, this weekend the team will take the pitch in their home debut, where they will be showered with endless love and adoration after playing the opposition in the eyes of some last weekend, but it was still an incredibly special moment for the expansion side.
Despite being in the belly of the hypebeast that is Angel City, there was a fair amount of Wave FC supporters to make their way to Fullerton to cheer on their squad in its first-ever match.
“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 Wave FC head coach Casey Stoney after the match.
With players still working their way into fitness as the team enter preparations for the start of the regular season, Saturday night provided an opportunity to get a glimpse at various players. Those who will be sure-fire in the Starting XI, and those that may be rotational options. Stars Abby Dahlkemper and Alex Morgan were two of the players who didn't see a full 90 on the night.
“I think tactically we’re understanding what Casey expects and wants from us. And so I think that it’s really just getting games under our belt and learning more of each other’s tendencies. Sofia [Jakobsson] only recently came in with the team. Me and Abby were limited on minutes. So I think next weekend, we just continue to move forward and take another step forward. But I think that this is a great starting position for us right now” said Morgan post-match.
It was also a special night for all of Southern California. In just a couple years’ time the area went from having no teams in the NWSL, to now having two teams that come with tons of hype, loaded rosters, and even some expectations.
“It being the 10th season now of the NWSL, I think it was time for a team or multiple teams in California. I’m very happy to be at the very foundational blocks of San Diego Wave and to see Angel City also trying to grow their club at the same time. I think it’s just great for soccer in California, but also I might be biased, I think Southern California is the mecca of youth soccer. So to give that next generation access to us week in and week out is so important” said Morgan.
The highlight of the night came late in the match, when San Diego recorded their first-ever goal in the 81st minute. Kaleigh Riehl got on the end of a well-placed corner kick, and nudged the ball just enough with her body to get it past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net for the equalizer. The goal was enough to split the points on the road and keep things all even in the Western group of the Challenge Cup. Wave FC host Portland Thorns this weekend, when they play at home for the first time in Torero Stadium. With one match under their belts, and what will likely be a more complete XI going into matchday two, it will be no doubt be a homecoming to remember for San Diego’s newest team.
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