The day has arrived at long last as San Diego Wave Futbol Club rolls into PNC Stadium to take on the Houston Dash in the club’s inaugural regular season match on Sunday at 4pm Pacific Time. San Diego and Houston meet up for the first of two regular-season matchups after not seeing each other during the course of the NWSL Challenge Cup. Both clubs look to start the 2022 campaign on the right foot following their six-match tune-up over the course of the previous couple of months.
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Wave FC began their inaugural season in the 2022 Challenge Cup Group Stage on March 19th against their expansion partners, Angel City FC at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif. Despite trailing 1-0, Kaleigh Reihl put her name in the record books with the first goal in club history in the 81st minute to tie the match at 1-1 where it ultimately concluded at. San Diego welcomed the Portland Thorns to town for their preseason opener at Torero Stadium on March 26th before a packed house that saw the Visitors come away with the 1-0 victory after Sophia Smith scored for Portland five minutes into the match.
ACFC and San Diego reacquainted themselves on April 2nd in San Diego where Alex Morgan took center stage, netting a pair of goals while Jodie Taylor and Amirah Ali also found the net as the Wave crashed Angel City’s hopes and dreams of the first-ever victory in the SoCal Derby with a 4-2 home turf win in front of another packed house at Torero Stadium.
San Diego hit the road for two road matches the week of Easter. It started with a tough 3-1 loss in Seattle against the OL Reign where Morgan scored her third goal in two matches before the club dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 result to the Thorns in Portland. Bella Breide and Taylor Kornieck each scored for the Wave in the Loss.
Wave FC concluded their Challenge Cup run on April 23rd back in San Diego, playing to a 1-1 Draw against the Reign.
The Wave finished their Challenge Cup schedule at 1-3-2 in Group B, while the Dash went 2-4-0 in Group C.
2022 SAN DIEGO WAVE FC ROSTER:
Goalkeepers (3): Kailen Sheridan, Carly Telford, Melissa Lowder
Defenders (8): Abby Dahlkemper, Naomi Gima, Kaleigh Reihl, Tegan McGrady, Christen Westphal, Kayla Bruster, Mia Gyau, Taylor Hansen
Forwards (6): Amirah Ali, Jodie Taylor, Sofia Jakobbson, Alex Morgan, Makenzy Doniak, Katie Johnson
Midfielders (7): Emily van Egmond, Kelsey Turnbow, Kristen McNabb, Sydney Pulver, Taylor Kornieck, Belle Briede, Marleen Schimmer
ABOUT THE OPPONENT: The Houston Dash will oppose the Wave on Sunday as their first regular-season opponent in franchise history. Houston is coming off just missing the NWSL Playoffs in 2021 despite a 9-10-5 record, they were beaten out of the postseason party by the North Carolina Courage, albeit by just one standings point.
Houston opened their Challenge Cup schedule on March 20th, falling 3-1 to the Chicago Red Stars. Katie Naughton had the lone marker for the Dash in the 19th minute before Chicago recorded the next three goals for the victory. The Dash got back on track on March 25th, pulling out a 3-2 victory over Racing Louisville FC led by three different goal scorers. Houston dropped two other decisions to the Kansas City Current and another one to Chicago before ending the challenge Cup schedule with a 2-1 triumph over Louisville.
Meanwhile, the Dash finds themselves in transition on the field as the club suspended head coach and general manager James Clarkson with immediate effect after “current and historic complaints of discrimination, harassment, and abuse.” On the field, Houston returns their leading scorer from the 2021 season, Rachel Daly. The 30-year-old England native appeared in just 15 matches last season but scored a team-high nine goals with the next closest team-high goal scorers boasting just three goals each.
However, Houston’s offense has been grounded as they’ve been held scoreless over the past three matches, covering the last 303 minutes they have played.
STRANGER TIDES: Sunday will mark the first time that Wave Defender Abby Dahlkemper will face her former club. Dahlkemper spent the 2021 NWSL season with Houston where she appeared in eight matches.
WAVE WATCHING (Player to Watch): Alex Morgan will be the player to watch for San Diego on Sunday. The San Dimas native, acquired in the offseason from Orlando has already established her presence in America’s Finest City. Morgan lead San Diego’s offensive attack in the Challenge Cup with a team-high four goals.
SHORE BREAK (Goalkeeping Matchup): Kailen Sheridan and Carly Telford were the two used Goalkeepers by head coach Casey Stoney throughout the Challenge Cup run for San Diego. Sheridan recorded a 1-1-2 record in the four matches she played in while Telford went 0-2-0. Melissa Lowder is the third Goalkeeper on the roster for the Wave this season.
Jane Campbell and Lindsey Harris also split time in net for the Dash during the Challenge Cup campaign. Campbell saw the bulk of playing time, playing 450 out of a possible 540 minutes, recording a 1-0-4 record while Harris saw action in just one match and snagged a victory in her lone appearance.
OFFSHORE VIEWING (Where To Watch): Fans can watch the match on Paramount+ with kickoff coming at 4pm Pacific Time. Fans can also join fellow supporters at Home & Away in Old Town for an official Watch Party beginning at 3pm Sunday afternoon.
QUOTES (courtesy of Wave FC’s Communications Team):
Casey Stoney on having optimism as an expansion team: “My belief is that I have a fantastic roster here. I have incredible players, great people, and my staff is on another level when it comes to what they deliver. We are going to try to do things differently on and off the field. We want to make sure we are competitive (regardless of being an expansion team). We have had moments and periods in games where we have really shown what we are capable of thus far. Now, it is about consistency and sustaining these moments over longer periods.”
Casey Stoney on having a team of talented rookies and seasoned vets: “We are one of the teams who have given the most rookies the most minutes. I believe in young players, and I believe in giving them a chance. They know they will have bumps and hurdles throughout the season, but it is about development. We have incredible young players on this team, and we have great senior players leading the way by supporting them and guiding them through it all.”
Alex Morgan on club culture: “Casey has come in and has adapted and transitioned to the league very well. She has already implemented her style on our team and our execution of it has been pretty good and will only continue to get better through the season. It is a very positive environment, and we feel very happy to be led by Casey, Molly Downtain, and Jill Ellis. We have an amazing group of strong women leading this organization and hopefully, we can show that this season.”
Kailen Sheridan on setting the standard: “We have already made it a point that we are a fun team to watch. We have so much talent and experience. The combination of these two features are going to set the tone of who we are as a new club, and how we set the standard for the league moving forward. We want to show what the highest standard of women’s soccer is, and we have already started on that path. The regular season gives us more time to show and hold the rest of the league, if not world, to that standard.”