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Catch The Wave: 2022 San Diego Wave FC Season Preview

One of the newest members of the NWSL, San Diego Wave Futbol Club gears up for inaugural season on Sunday in Houston.

Members of the 2022 San Diego Wave Futbol Club. PHOTO CREDIT: San Diego Wave FC

After 19 years, Women’s Professional Soccer returns to America’s Finest City as the San Diego Wave Futbol Club joins the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The league officially celebrates its 10th anniversary this season with two new teams joining the fun, and both teams are in markets with strong potential in Los Angeles (Angel City FC) and right here in San Diego.

The San Diego Spirit of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) was the most notable recent incarnation of Women’s Pro Soccer in San Diego, having played three seasons from 2001 until 2003 before the league suspended operations. The club was led by a notable trio of 1999 World Cup Champions in Julie Foudy, Shannon McMillian, and Joy Fawcett. The Spirit averaged over 5,000 fans at the 7,000-seat Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego, ironically enough it’ll serve as the temporary home of the Wave until mid-September when the club moves to the brand new 35,000 seat Snapdragon Stadium in Mission Valley.

Things began to fall into place in January of 2021 when NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird announced that the league granted an expansion franchise to Sacramento, California led by Ron Burkle, who has part ownership of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and who was the main player involved in leading a group to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) club to Sacramento. However, just a month after being granted the NWSL club, Burkle chose to depart the Sacramento MLS bid group as the bid hit snags along the way, including ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic in California, and instead, he elected to bring the NWSL franchise to San Diego in June 2021.

San Diego Wave FC’s Crest

In December of 2021, the team officially unveiled the club’s name, crest, and color palette. Part of the team’s press release read in part, “The crest, encased in a shield, is a symbol of strength, for the city and team, to proudly stand behind. A powerful wave, cresting in the rich blues of the Pacific Ocean, sits front and center as the iconic mark of Wave FC. And under the proud banner of the city’s name, are the vivid colors of the horizon, celebrating the beauty, fun, and vibrant culture of the city and its people.” The club’s crest contains a two-tone blue wave against a magenta, orange, and light blue crest with SAN DIEGO arched above with a setting futuristic sun included.

March 2021 brought the first hire in club history in the form of two-time Women’s World Cup Champion Jill Ellis being appointed the first club president. Ellis was at the helm of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) from 2012 until 2019. During her seven seasons as the head coach, Ellis guided the Stars and Stripes to a 106-7-19 record, two FIFA World Cup Championships (2015, 2019) and a 5th place finish at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ellis also had five different collegiate stops before joining the U.S. Soccer with Assistant Coaching duties at North Carolina State, Maryland, and Virginia before taking over the Head Coaching role at Illinois and UCLA.

Entering July, San Diego found their first head coach in Casey Stoney. She spent 19 seasons playing with numerous clubs in Europe, notably with two stints with Arsenal along with a stint with Chelsea and Liverpool. Stoney had managed the 2009 Chelsea squad as a player-manager, then for three seasons, she was in charge of Manchester United before taking the job in San Diego. Stoney also appeared in 134 matches with the English National Team from 2000 until 2017, she scored 6 goals in 130 matches for England before playing for Great Britain in 2012 where she scored a goal in 4 matches.

The week of Thanksgiving gave the Wave the first piece of the puzzle for their inaugural season roster. San Diego signed defender Abby Dahlkemper from the Houston Dash on November 22nd to become the first player in club history. Dahlkemper spent NWSL time with Western New York in 2015, North Carolina in 2017, and Houston last season. She has made 79 appearances for the USWNT since her debut in 2016 and also had two loaned appearances to Adelaide United in the Australian Women’s League in 2015 and Manchester United in 2021.

Arguably, the biggest roster move made by the Wave was bringing home one of their own from Southern California in Alex Morgan. Morgan, a San Dimas native was traded to San Diego from the Orlando Pride in mid-December with $275,000 in allocation money, and Angharad James was sent to Orlando. Morgan has appeared in the NWSL since 2011 with stops including Western New York, Portland, and Orlando. Overseas stops for Morgan included Lyon and Tottenham Hotspur. The 32-year-old has tallied 162 career goals across her NWSL and USWNT careers, along with capturing two World Cups alongside Ellis in 2015 and 2019.

Alex Morgan (left) and Abby Dahlkemper (right) became the first two players acquired by the Wave. PHOTO CREDIT: Times of San Diego

December brought upon the 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft, where Angel City FC and San Diego alternated picks across a nine-round draft selecting players from the rest of the NWSL with the exception of the Kansas City Current. Selections made by San Diego included Kristie Mewis (traded to NY/NJ Gotham), Kristen McNabb from the OL Reign, and Kaleigh Riehl from Racing Louisville FC.

Two days later, the 2022 NWSL Draft took place with all twelve teams partaking in the event. San Diego scored the top overall pick and selected Naomi Girma out of Stanford University. The 21-year-old San Jose, Calif. Native appeared in 68 games with the Cardinal, scoring eight goals. With the 9th pick, Marleen Schimmer was selected by San Diego from Duke University. Sydney Pulver was taken with the 25th pick in Round 2 out of Washington State as a Compensatory Pick. Another Stanford Cardinal was chosen by the Wave in Round 3 in Belle Briede, and Kayla Bruster was the final pick in Round 4.

Provided below was the San Diego Wave FC Roster for the 2022 Challenge Cup and Preseason:

Goalkeepers (3): Carly Telford, Kailen Sheridan, Melissa Lowder.

Defenders (8): Abby Dahlkemper, Christen Westphal, Kaleigh Riehl, Kayla Bruster, Mia Gyua, Namoi Girma, Taylor Hansen, Tegan McGrady.

Midfielders (6): Belle Briede, Emily van Egmond, Kelsey Turnbow, Kristen McNabb, Sydney Pulver, Taylor Kornieck.

Forwards (7): Alex Morgan, Amirah Ali, Jodie Taylor, Katie Johnson, Makenzy, Doniak, Marleen Schimmer, Sofia Jakobsson.

The 2022 NWSL Season will see each team play a balanced twenty-two (22) game schedule beginning on May 1st for San Diego as they’ll hit the road to face the Houston Dash in Houston. 

The rest of the schedule can be found below (all game times are Pacific, Home Games in BOLD at Torero Stadium, BOLD Italicized games at Snapdragon Stadium):

MAY (6, 2H/4A): 5/1 at HOU, 4pm, 5/7 vs. NY/NJ, 7pm, 5/15 vs. CHI, 2pm, 5/18 @ LOU, 4:30pm, 5/22 @ NC, 11am, 5/29 @ OL, 12pm.

JUNE (4, 2H/2A): 6/4 at KC, 5:30pm, 6/8 vs. POR, 7pm, 6/12 vs. OL, 2pm, 6/19 @ NY/NJ, 1pm.

JULY (4, 2H/2A): 7/3 vs. WAS, 2pm, 7/9 at ACFC, 7:30pm, 7/15 vs. LOU, 7pm, 7/30 at CHI, 5pm.

AUGUST (4, 3H/1A): 8/7 vs. KC, 2pm, 8/13 vs. ORL, 7:30pm, 8/20 vs. HOU, 7pm, 8/27 at POR, 7:30pm.

SEPTEMBER (4, 2H/2A): 9/10 at WAS, 2pm, 9/17 vs. ACFC*, 6:30pm, 9/25 at ORL, 4pm, 9/30 vs. NC*, 6:30pm.

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