NWSL Challenge Cup indeed. A challenge it has been for the expansion side San Diego Wave FC, but for all the lumps they've taken, they have done incredibly well to continue fighting on a match-by-match basis. Their second time against Portland Thorns was no different. Despite a valiant effort down three goals, the Wave were unable to complete the comeback, falling to the Thorns 3-2.
Thorns wasted no time in trying to improve on their one goal win the last time these two teams faced each other. Sophia Smith gave her side the lead in under five minutes, putting on a stunner with the defender draped all over her.
It would be the start of a dominating first half from the home side. Thorns jumped out to the three goal lead in the first half, leaving the Wave wondering what their next step would be just to avoid a rout. Luckily, this team has a never-say-die mentality and seem to come out stronger in second halves.
Belle Briede was at the right place at the right time after an Alex Morgan shot was saved. Morgan got the rebound, put a pass to the streaking Biede, who finished it calmly for her first NWSL goal. It was a moment of brilliance in what had — until that point — been a rough one for the visitors.
San Diego made things real interesting in the 67th minute when substitute Taylor Kornieck scored a header literal seconds after coming into the match. Brought on specifically because of her ability in the air, she showed it off as she got her head on a corner kick and the game was on with the Wave just down a goal.
While the Wave may not have been able to complete the comeback, it was one of those “good losses” people hate to acknowledge but very much exist. On short rest having played just a few days ago, to go out and not hang your head when down multiple goals in the first half for the second straight match, says a lot. Not only that, the team were able to make changes, adjust, and come out for the second half a completely different side.
This was always a tournament San Diego would use to find out about themselves. Where they are as a team, what they will need to do to build a successful club, establishing their identity. Losing is never fun, but if these matches can prove lessons, this will be a battle-tested side before regular season begins.
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