The San Diego Wave FC are having a monumental first season in the NWSL. The team is surpassing the expectations placed on an expansion team, including breaking the attendance record for a regular-season match. There are a lot of players that are playing a part in this and some have received more attention than the rest. Alex Morgan is the Golden Girl who still leads the Golden Boot race. She’s the undisputed star of the team, with a combination of good looks, charisma, and is incredibly talented to boot. Then there’s Naomi Girma, the intelligent, affable, and sturdy defender, whose poise and maturity have allowed her to become an early success story in the league.
While the attention on those two is more than justified, other players also deserve recognition in their own right. One of them is Wave FC’s fullback, Kristen McNabb. She temporarily grabbed the spotlight by opening up the scoring against the Portland Thorns last Saturday.
The goal was her fourth in the NWSL and the second for her current team. McNabb tends to fly under the radar but her talent speaks for itself. The left-back has been a vital cog for the Wave FC and is instrumental in keeping the well-oiled machine running. So far this season, McNabb has played a total of 1,685 minutes and has made a total of 17 starts (18 appearances in total).
The fullback puts in a lot of defensive work for her team. The Wave have tended to cede possession during their last few matches and they’ve done so knowing that their defense will completely cover for them. As this graphic from Statsbomb shows us, McNabb is good at intercepting the ball from her opponent. She is also an aerial threat who is good at defending set-pieces. Furthermore, she’s also not a player who can be easily dispossessed, as she doesn’t commit too many turnovers.
McNabb is also a four-year veteran who is currently playing her fifth year in the league. The left-back previously plied her trade at the OL Reign until she was drafted by the Wave in 2021. In hindsight, she has turned out to be quite the pickup for the team given all that she’s contributed so far.
And like John Entwistle, The Who’s enigmatic Ox, McNabb is a character that will carry on while her bandmates are drawing all the attention towards them by tearing everything down. Even if your eyes are drawn toward the guitarist smashing their Gibson into a stack of Vox speakers, you can still feel the reverberations of the bass player who remains steady and plays on despite all the madness.
Kristen is the one on the left who is currently plucking those strings. The fullback is also an important member of the squad and has helped the team foster good chemistry within the team. Part of the reason for her success is the environment the Wave have cultivated, which is tailor-made to meet the players’ needs. In her own words:
“I think it’s a credit to top-down, it starts with Casey [Stoney] and her support staff and her technical staff, from the beginning they emphasized that yes, we’re an expansion team, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’re going to set a precedent of we can come in the league in year one and compete. I think everyone just kind of embodied it from day one. We know our identity and we just play every game how we want to play ultimately.
I think that we know when to be serious, we know when to have fun. And I think they did a great job of recruiting really good soccer players but also really good people. There’s not one ego on the team. And I think it shows on the field. We get along so well off the field.”
The San Diego Wave won’t return to action until Saturday, September 10th. They will take on the Washington Spirit that day and kickoff time will be at 10 am PDT. If the Wave are to win that game, then there is no doubt that Kristen McNabb will be one of the keys to that victory.
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