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San Diego Wave FC stay ready as they prepare for 1st meeting vs. Thorns

Club’s first-ever home game on horizon.

San Diego Wave FC v Angel City FC - 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

One game, one historic night in the books for San Diego Wave FC, and now it’s back to work for the next game, Saturday when they host Portland Thorns for their first-ever home game.

In talking to media on Thursday, assistant coach Rich Gunney ran the rule over the performance in last week’s debut 1-1 draw against fellow NWSL expansion side Angel City FC and explained what the team has been working on in training ahead of the second game.

“I think building off the last game, we just want to try and make a step forward,” Gunney said. “What areas do we need to focus on? You know, it’s all phases of the game. So we felt that in the first half of last week, we had pretty good control. We had some good passages of play. We created some opportunities in that first half. So we want to build on that. In the second half, we can see that the goal and at the start of the second half, which had an impact on the team for that first part of the second half, so what was really pleasing then was to see the adjustment and how we kind of got back into the game but we want to try and be able to be a bit more defensively compact, a bit more accurate with our possession and build a play and create some more attacking opportunities. So a second half was something that we definitely want to try and improve on in this game. So for more, sort of 90 minute performance together, but certainly [we’re] pleased with the first attempt.”

Defender Kaleigh Riehl was upbeat in seeing the potential for the team.

“There’s so much room for growth, which is really exciting,” she said. “And you know, the style that we’re trying to play, the more that we’re together and training, the more time that we have will continue to get better and better and yeah, we’re just competing every day on the training field and and learning from our mistakes on film and, and learning what we did well and you see that really translating on the field.”

Riehl came off the bench in the first game to make a big impact for Wave FC. Replacing captain Abby Dahlkemper in central defense at halftime, the Virginia native scored her first-ever professional goal to tie up the game and ensure San Diego got a share of the points.

“I think that it’s always important to be prepared,” Riehl explained. “You may be called upon at any time. So I think that was kind of my mentality going in at halftime. And then obviously, it was incredible to get the first goal and I was super excited, but I just am happy that we were able to get a point out of the game and you know, I would have been just as happy if anyone else had scored. I was just really happy that we could at least tie it up and get a point.”

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who had five saves in the draw, paid tribute to Riehl’s readiness in the first game.

“I think it’s incredible to see the amount of talent we have, but also the humility that we have on this team,” said Sheridan. “Kaleigh came into that game 100% knowing she wasn’t going to start and then came in and changed the game for the whole team. And it’s incredible to have people on our team like that. And I think Casey [Stoney has] done a really good job of creating a group of people who are who are really good mentally and emotionally with how their impact is going to be on this team. And we’re really lucky to have people who come in and literally change the game like Kaleigh and [Sofia Jakobsson] and Alex [Morgan] that so it’s incredible to have a team like that.”

For Gunney, who was previously an assistant coach with the Thorns, he’s looking forward to seeing his old side, but is also relishing the challenge of playing an opponent that isn’t brand new.

“Five great years in Portland [for me], a lot of fond memories and know a lot of people and players and staff associated with the club,” he said. So we’re looking forward to seeing them, looking forward to competing against them. They’ve been a strong force in the league for a number of years. So it’s a good test for us. A good barometer to see. We know where we’re at in terms of when we played against Angel City. Now the next challenge, there’s going to be some tactical adjustments and yeah, psychological adjustments in terms of playing an established team, but one I think we’re really well prepared for, more than capable for and we’re excited for the challenge.”

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