San Diego Wave FC (SDFC) played the Chicago Red Stars (CRS) at home Sunday in a back-and-forth match that resulted in a 2-1 win for the Wave. Chicago entered the game with a four-game winning streak in the regular season that began in October 2021. San Diego forward Alex Morgan continued her scoring streak after notching four goals in the Wave’s 4-0 shut out of Gotham FC last week, effectively ending Chicago’s collection of wins.
Each team had a relatively quiet first half, as they both struggled to find rhythm in their play. Perhaps the brightest spot at the beginning of the match was Amirah Ali on the right flank for SDFC. She made a flashy run up the side in the sixth minute before testing Alyssa Naeher early with a shot but was forced to leave the match early due to injury.
International star Sofia Jakobsson replaced Ali in the 34th minute and helped generate one of the few opportunities for San Diego in the first half. Driving up the right side, Jakobsson played a low ball directly to the feet of Taylor Kornieck, who made a run toward the penalty spot, but her shot went just wide.
Chicago had few notable chances in the first half. Offensive target Mallory Pugh did not make an appearance in the game due to a concussion, and the Red Stars seemed in need of a dynamic and speedy forward to boost their creativity.
However, both sides came out much more energized in the second half. Morgan had various opportunities to score on the left side, her first coming in the 50th minute with a low, driven ball to the back post that was tipped away by Naeher. Just five minutes later, Kayla Sharples received a yellow card after fouling San Diego in the box, and Morgan buried the penalty kick to score her fifth goal in two matches.
Morgan had a flood of chances over the following ten minutes, all of which were quite similar. She received a ball over the top in the 58th minute and was one-on-one with Naeher, but placed her shot wide. San Diego had back-to-back chances in the 63rd and 64th minute, the first being a free-kick that Kornieck attempted to stab past Naeher, who made a great save to keep her team in the game. Just a minute later, Morgan got on the end of a ball and slammed it to the far post, but the goal was called offside.
Another offside tally came in the 83rd minute, as Chicago finally challenged Kailen Sheridan on a stunning header by rookie Jill Aguilera. Chicago had five rookies play in total, who despite the score, showed up big-time for the squad as they dealt with a number of injuries to their starters.
San Diego’s Kaleigh Riel started the match over Abby Dahlkemper who suffered from a slight head injury in the team’s last game. She proved to be a great replacement, as she brought the score to 2-0 in the 89th minute, calmly settling a ball served into the box and placing it to the right of Naeher. Some questioned whether Riel was onside considering she was completely unmarked in the box and had ample time to both settle and shoot, but this could also be attributed to poor defending by Chicago.
The Red Stars turned around and scored almost immediately. Aguilera crossed the ball into the box, and Yuki Nagasato laid it off to Ava Cook who sunk it into the lower-left corner. It was Cook’s first goal in the NWSL and demonstrated the potential of Chicago’s younger players.
The game ended in a 2-1 win for SDFC, keeping them at the top of the table with nine points and a record of 3-0-0. CRS is in the middle of the standings at sixth and is set to play their next game at North Carolina on May 22, 2022. San Diego will play Wednesday, May 18, 2022, against Racing Louisville FC. Morgan looks to continue her scoring streak and hopefully capitalize on more chances in the run of play to keep the Wave atop the table.