As Metallica once said, Nothing Else Matters. The slate is cleaned, everyone is 0-0 and it’s Win or Go Home. San Diego Wave FC is set to “Make Waves” on Sunday evening as the first-year National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) franchise hosts their inaugural home Playoff match as the third-seeded Wave welcome the sixth-seeded Chicago Red Stars to Snapdragon Stadium in a Winner take all Opening Round match at 7pm on CBS Sports Network. The winner of the match will advance to the NWSL Semi-Finals against either the Portland Thorns or OL Reign.
THE DROP-IN (Last Match): In a match filled with chances, goal line saves and a goal being pulled off the board for an Offside, San Diego Wave FC and the North Carolina Courage battled it out to the end on September 30th at Snapdragon Stadium before a crowd of 18,000 to the tune of a 0-0 draw in what was San Diego’s final match of the regular season.
IMPACT ZONE (All-Time Series): In the regular season series, San Diego swept the two regular season matches to hold a 2-0-0, 6 Pts. record over Chicago. Alex Morgan and Kaleigh Reihl provided the San Diego offense in the first-ever meeting back in May as the Wave held on for a 2-1 victory at Torero Stadium. The Wave took the road leg at Soldier Field for the regular season series as the Wave blanked the Red Stars 1-0 back in late July.
ON THE PODIUM (NWSL Awards Announced – Story courtesy of NWSLsoccer.com): The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced on Friday the nominees for the 2022 NWSL Awards with Wave FC represented in five categories. Forward Alex Morgan and defender Naomi Girma are up for Most Valuable Player presented by Budweiser. Naomi Girma, who was nominated three times, is also in the running for Defender of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Kailen Sheridan has been nominated for Goalkeeper of the Year, presented by Ally, and Casey Stoney for Coach of the Year.
The award winners will be announced in the days surrounding the 2022 NWSL Championship game, which is set to kick off Saturday, October 29 at 8 p.m. ET at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. The contest will air live on CBS Television Network and stream live on Paramount+ and internationally on the NWSL’s Twitch channel. The league will also announce the Championship MVP presented by Budweiser during the postgame, on-field presentation.
THE ROOKIE (More honors for Naomi Girma – Story courtesy of the Wave FC Communications Team): The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced San Diego Wave Fútbol Club defender Naomi Girma as Rookie of the Month for September and October, presented by Ally, as voted by the NWSL Media Association. Additionally, for the fourth time this season, the rookie was named to the NWSL Best XI, presented by Mastercard.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft, Girma has shown veteran-like qualities all season for the third-place San Diego. Girma has played every available minute this season, tallying 19 games, 19 starts and 1710 minutes played.
In the month of September, the defender played four matches, recording four starts and 360 minutes played. Girma represented Wave FC as the captain for the first time on Sept. 30th against NC Courage, leading San Diego to a clean sheet and a third-place finish in the 2022 NWSL Regular Season.
The San Jose native anchored a Wave defense en route to a 1-1-2 record (4 points), clinching a playoff spot as the first expansion team to ever reach this feat in NWSL history. Girma had an 82 percent passing accuracy, with 20 clearances, 5 blocks, and 2 interceptions in September. Her impressive month went beyond the NWSL, as Girma appeared for the USWNT in their friendly against Nigeria in Washington D.C. on Sept. 6th, helping the stars and stripes to a 2-1 win. The center defender also made a start for the USA at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 7th in a friendly against England.
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 (7): Amirah Ali, Jodie Taylor, Sofia Jakobsson, Alex Morgan, Makenzy Doniak, Katie Johnson, Jayden Shaw
Midfielders (7): Emily van Egmond, Kelsey Turnbow, Kristen McNabb, Sydney Pulver, Taylor Kornieck, Belle Briede, Marleen Schimmer
ABOUT THE OPPONENT: CHICAGO RED STARS: It’s the Chicago Red Stars opposing San Diego Wave FC on Sunday. Chicago snagged the sixth and final playoff spot with a 9-7-6 record (33 Points). USWNT star Mallory Pugh paced the Chicago offense with 11 Goals scored on the season in 16 matches played. The Red Stars struggled to find their footing away from the Windy City, finishing the 22-match campaign with a 3-5-3 road record on the season while they amassed a 6-2-3 record on the season at home.
SHORE BREAK (Goalkeeping Matchup): Kailen Sheridan will be the expected starter for San Diego while Chicago will be expected to send out Alyssa Naher for this winner take all match.
OFFSHORE VIEWING (Where To Watch): Sunday’s match will begin at 7pm Pacific from Snapdragon Stadium and will be aired on CBS Sports Network (check your local listing). Fans coming out to the match can enjoy the Boardwalk Fest pre-game party beginning at 4:30pm before Gates Open at 5pm.
QUOTES (courtesy of the Wave FC Communications Team):
Wave FC Head Coach Casey Stoney:
On this weekend’s Quarter Final match:
“Obviously, a massively exciting opportunity for us as a club – our first-ever season to be in the playoffs is a huge achievement for the club, the players and the staff. It’s exciting and something different for me. Normally, when the season is over, it’s over, but you have almost three opportunities to win silverware here. We know we are up against a very good team with very good attacking threats. It is also a team we know we can do well against, so it’s an exciting opportunity for us, we know it is a huge game, but one we are really looking forward to.”
On player management in the last couple of weeks:
“It has been a difficult couple of weeks. I won’t shy away from that. I think we have to acknowledge the history of the league and the experiences the players have had, especially some of the players in this environment. I will do everything I can to support them, give them space, talk to them, ask how they are, and what they need. We have enough support in our environment, not just me. We have a well-being coach too who is here. We have external pathways that we can refer players to. I am really confident that we have created a space that is safe, but fun. I shouldn’t even have to use the word safe; I think it’s shocking that we even have to talk about protecting the players and safety and stuff like that. It’s not a world that I ever want to manage or be a head coach of, and I am certainly not that here. Whilst I’m the head coach of this club, they’ll have an environment where they are valued and cared for. They might not always like me based on my decisions in terms of the team, but I’d like to think they will always respect that I care for them and value them whether they play one minute, or no minute, or ninety minutes.”
On the status of Alex Morgan, Taylor Kornieck and Abby Dahlkemper:
“Abby is out. 100%. To be honest, when it comes to Alex and Taylor, at the moment, it’s still very, very questionable. Both of them have been seriously injured, so we are still working day-by-day at the moment.”
On managing her first playoff match:
“They are always one-off games, aren’t they? I would liken it to an FA Cup game in Europe. When I was working in England, you lose, you’re out of the FA Cup. These players have way more experience in the playoffs than I do. I don’t have an ego, so anything they can share with me that will help the team, I will ask, I will listen, I will learn, and make sure everybody has that knowledge because we know it is a big game. At the same time, I believe the pressure is all on Chicago, they have been in this position before, they played at this stage last year, but we haven’t. What an opportunity for us.”
On playing Chicago for the third time this year:
“They are a very good team. Mal Pugh is an exceptional talent, we know that. Morgan Gattrot being back is a huge plus for them in terms of the way they connect through midfield. They have the #1 American goalkeeper. In terms of their roster, they are very strong. We know we are going to have to be defensively very good. We also know that we can score goals against them, because we have.”
On Naomi Girma’s international performance:
“I am very, very happy I stood strong on the fact that I wanted Naomi Girma as our #1 Draft Pick [2022 NWSL Draft]. I think she has validated that decision time and time again. She is a very mature player, she is an incredible human being, she is so composed on and off the field. She takes everything in her stride. Playing in front of 70-80,000 fans at Wembley is not an easy thing to do, and again, she took it in her stride.”
Wave FC Forward, Alex Morgan
On this weekend’s Quarter Final match:
“Obviously, this is a huge accomplishment for the club to be able to make the playoffs for the first time in our first year. I’m really excited for Sunday and I’m hearing that we’re pushing towards a sellout, so I think this city and community has really rallied behind us, and it’s great to really represent this club.”
On San Diego having two first division teams in the playoffs:
“It’s a special time for San Diego and for sports fans here in San Diego. For us both to be in the playoffs at the same time, on the same weekend, it’s really great to be able to support each other and just have San Diego enjoy this time.”
On what their hope is as players on what they’d like this weekend to look like:
“I think each player is processing and healing in this time differently. Each team is in a different place as well. Chicago is in a very different place than us within their organization. So, I think that having a lot of PA calls are really important to really understand where each team is, where all the players are and making sure that we allow space for that and don’t put more pressure on the players to feel like we have to do something or say something more. I feel like we’ve said our peace. We’ve done as much as we can. We’ve gotten to this point now where player safety is a priority and there are protocols in place, commitments by San Diego as well that they’re looking at implementing moving forward that we’ve worked with them on in the recent week. So that’s really important and in terms of solidarity – us players, throughout the NWSL are incredibly supportive of each other, but I’m not sure if you’re going to necessarily see something before the game or wearing anything in particular for the game. It’s been a really heavy two weeks, and I’m not sure that we want to put any more added pressure on players to come up with something when we’ve really all tried to process it just at the very least. It’s been an interesting time, but we’re really hopeful moving forward.”
On what she hopes other women’s sports and leagues will learn from the Yates Investigation:
“I think our union was the first step in creating more of a professional environment that happened a couple of years ago and finally executing and signing the first CBA was an important step as well. And listening, believing players and putting players’ safety first was also a huge step this year that players really demanded by using their voices and sharing their stories. I am really hopeful with the NWSL moving forward, but I know that this isn’t a soccer issue, so I hope that people do learn from the Yates report from the recommendations from us players really standing up for ourselves, and we’re always here to support other women’s sports leagues as well. Even with the equal pay lawsuit, myself and a lot of other players talked to so many other players from other federations and countries to help them in their equal pay fight, so I can imagine there could be some similarities in the support of the women’s sports community within this country.”
Wave FC Forward, Makenzy Doniak
On this weekend’s Quarter Final match:
“We’re just really excited being an expansion team to get this far has been great, but we want to keep pushing the limit, and we’ve been preparing for it, and I think we’re ready. So just really excited.”
On what it means to play a playoff game in her home state and on facing her former team:
“I’m super excited to be able to come back to Southern California and to play this whole season has been a full circle moment for me. And to make it this far, we’re just so excited. We want to keep pushing the limit for our team and preparing for Sunday. We’re just ready to grind it out and get that win. So, we’re really excited.”
On preparation during the international break:
“We had that week off, but I think we kept to the routine of things like we’ve been doing all season. Really just trained things we needed to work on and our strengths and toned in on this playoff game and preparing for that and not really taking our foot off the break.”