The roster-building approach to launch San Diego Wave FC has been focusing on domestic-based players, whether they are Americans or internationals with previous NWSL or NCAA experience.
There’s a couple of exceptions, but through two games, the presence of Sofia Jakobsson has been notable on the field. After making her NWSL debut off the bench for Wave FC in the first match, seemingly hours after arriving in California, the Swedish international was a starter in Saturday’s debut home match, a 1-0 loss to the Portland Thorns at Torero Stadium.
A forward with an all-around game, Jakobsson didn’t really play like a traditional forward against the Thorns. The 31-year-old was nominally the left winger in a 4-2-3-1 formation for Casey Stoney’s squad, but her performance was all action.
In fact, Jakobsson led all players on Saturday in tackles won, per Stats Perform, with five, and repeatedly won the ball and looked to make a transition opportunity for San Diego. She also led all players in crosses, with eight, and her service was good, without a teammate on the right spot often enough to take advantage of it.
Ultimately, San Diego played well against Portland, with a couple big issues on the night. They started the game too narrow, and the Thorns correctly attacked wide in response, and that’s how they got the game’s goal and the bulk of their chances on the night. San Diego’s defense was largely good, aside from the one breakdown, but one imagines this week they’ll be working hard on shape and/or rotations to get sharper and prevent getting torched again.
The other issue is entirely expected: Wave FC still play like a team getting to know each other, because they are. I think if that game against the Thorns had taken place in September, San Diego could have easily found an equalizer and even a winner. But they are still building chemistry, figuring out each other’s tendencies on the field.
Jakobsson may help lift the level in the meantime and become a “glue player” in the long run for San Diego. Her goal-scoring numbers aren’t huge throughout her career, but clearly she can be counted on to score some goals. Perhaps more likely, she can operate as a roaming playmaker, helping to pull the strings, connect midfield and the forwards, and get stuck in to win the ball, too. Alex Morgan is a No. 9, Jodie Taylor is a No. 9, Katie Johnson is also a No. 9, so the group already has “pure” forwards. Rookie Kelsey Turnbow is being used as the No. 10 playmaker, playing just behind the forward line, but while she has been creating chances it will take some time for her to adjust to the pro game and a new role on the field. In this way, Jakobsson’s presence as a playmaker on the wing can help take some of the pressure off Turnbow and give San Diego multiple options at once.
Obviously it’s early and we’ll see how things shake out over time for Wave FC, which players grab starting spots and don’t let go, who settles into which roles and who seems to click playing with her teammates. I think it’s a safe bet when healthy and available, Sofia Jakobsson is going to play a significant role for San Diego, and if she can help them weather the rocky moments in these initial weeks, Wave FC should come out stronger on the other side.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.