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Glad you’re back: Chicago Red Stars 0, San Diego Wave FC 1

Wave jump back to top of standings with road win.

San Diego Wave FC v NJ/NY Gotham FC Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

San Diego Wave FC moved back atop the NWSL regular season standings, and posted a 1-0 clean sheet win against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday at Soldier Field, despite going down a player for more than 30 minutes and conceding a penalty.

With four of the five internationals on tournament duty back for San Diego, save Sofia Jakobsson, the rest went right back into the starting lineup, alongside one surprise name in Jaedyn Shaw. The 17-year-old, playing in her first-ever professional game after being signed earlier this month, was instantly in Casey Stoney’s XI for Wave FC.

Kailen Sheridan, back in net for San Diego, was first tested in the 6th minute on a corner kick, which she punched out of danger when the ball appeared bound for goal. About two minutes later, San Diego had a good look off a corner, with Taylor Kornieck heading from close range over the target.

Abby Dahlkemper made a hard tackle on Sarah Luebbert as she bore down on goal in the 13th minute, but while the Red Stars’ attacker rolled well into the 18-yard box, Dahlkemper was lucky that the referee judged the foul outside the box and only got a yellow card for her troubles. By the 22nd minute, Naomi Girma had picked up a clear yellow card as well, with both center backs having to play with caution the rest of the way.

But Wave FC took the lead in the 28th minute against the run of play. Katie Johnson, getting the start against her former team, had a breakaway when a ball bounced just right for her heading to Chicago’s goal. Seeing her angle get closed off, Johnson hit a square pass that Shaw picked up, but she had work to do to avoid a challenge and score, on her first appearance at professional level, to make it 1-0.

Mallory Pugh had a great look shortly after but her breakaway attempt on the other end went off the side netting. And a few minutes before halftime, Girma made a goalline clearance when a Sheridan save trickled towards goal, keeping the Red Stars off the board.

And San Diego held on for the lead at the halftime whistle, giving a good account of themselves once they took the lead, but with Chicago remaining dangerous nevertheless.

San Diego nearly got an insurance tally a couple minutes into the 2nd half, but Chicago somehow cleared the ball, Red Stars defender Tatumn Milazzo selling her body out and doing what she needed to to keep a second Wave FC goal from going in.

Knowing the next goal would be crucial on both sides, they each pushed for the next tally. Sheridan was pushed to make a couple assists, with Wave FC defenders trying to keep Pugh at bay, while Alex Morgan had a great chance that was saved easily by Chicago defender Alyssa Naeher.

That proved vital (for Chicago), because moments later Dahlkemper picked up her second yellow card for holding onto Pugh on an aerial ball, and was sent off shortly before the hour mark. That made San Diego’s challenge all the more difficult to hang onto the lead for the rest of the match.

The first subs of the game for Wave FC came in the 64th minute, with Amirah Ali replacing Shaw, who had a spectacular debut, while Belle Briede entered for Johnson, and Kaleigh Riehl took over for Turnbow, as Stoney brought in a replacement center back with Dahlkemper out.

San Diego didn’t seem to change their approach too much after the red card, aiming to possess and patiently work the ball upfield to keep the Red Stars from getting target practice down the stretch. It worked, with Wave FC not getting so many actual shots, but able to keep control of the tempo of the game for long stretches.

But the luck seemed to run out in the 81st minute, as Girma pulled on Ella Stephens in San Diego’s box, with the referee pointing to the spot for Chicago. Pugh stepped up to take the kick, but Sheridan went full stretch to make the stop and somehow keep Chicago off the board.

The final minutes were full of nerves for San Diego, but somehow they held on for the regular season sweep over the Red Stars.

This was an impressive win in spite of considerable imperfection from Wave FC. Dahlkemper and Girma were both uncharacteristically sloppy in this game, and somehow an off game by both dominant center backs did not come back to bite them. Morgan was largely held in check, but the rest of the team really picked up the slack. Shaw’s debut was stunning, truly, and her presence of mind on the goal was something many veterans can’t manage. Kornieck made a huge difference back in midfield, and obviously Sheridan made the key plays to keep Chicago off the board, especially on the penalty. Given the game state, aside from the goal, what a performance to dig this win out.

San Diego are back in action next Sunday, Aug. 7, when they host Kansas City Current at Torero Stadium. The last meeting between the teams ended in a late comeback draw for San Diego — can they build on that this next time and get a win? We will see.

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