This piece is an excerpt from this Monday’s Weekend Recap.
After three weeks of regular season matches, San Diego Wave FC and Angel City FC sit atop the table in the first and second spots, respectively. A first-half Christen Press goal was the difference between Angel City and the Washington Spirit in D.C. on Sunday, with the expansion side coming away with all three points. San Diego also took care of business on the other side of the country, beating the Chicago Red Stars at home with a 2-1 scoreline.
The Wave made two changes to their Week 2 lineup that faced NJ/NY Gotham FC, slotting Kaleigh Riehl and Amirah Ali in for Abby Dahlkemper and Sofia Jakobsson against the Chicago Red Stars. This was head coach Casey Stoney’s third lineup combination in as many games, which might be unsurprising as the expansion side is still parsing out their on-field identity. In any case, each iteration of starting XIs has been successful.
The Wave, sitting on nine points, are the only team that haven’t left points on the table so far this season.
After a scoreless first half, San Diego finally broke the stalemate in the 56th minute. Jakobsson won the ball from DiBernardo in the middle of the pitch and played Alex Morgan for a quick one-two sequence that sent Jakobsson past Kayla Sharples, Chicago’s lone defender. The breakaway ended with Jakobsson drawing a penalty kick and Sharples being shown a yellow card. Morgan put one past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher from the spot, scoring her fifth goal in two games. Morgan’s now tied for seventh with Carli Lloyd for most NWSL regular-season goals.
Morgan nearly doubled San Diego’s lead in the 64th minute and Chicago’s Jill Aguilera seemingly notched her first-ever NWSL goal twenty minutes later, but the offside flag spoiled both parties. The scorelined remained 1-0 in favor of San Diego until the 89th minute, when Kelsey Turnow played a perfect ball into an unmarked Riehl, who sent another goal past Naeher from just outside the six-yard box.
Less than two minutes later, Chicago’s attack joined the party and added a goal in the 91st minute. A poor clearance from the San Diego defense ended up at the feet of Chicago’s Yuki Nagasato, who played a one-touch pass into Ava Cook. Cook beat goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan with a one-touch strike, effectively ending San Diego’s shut-out streak.
Despite the modest scoreline, Chicago clearly struggled with San Diego’s quick transition game. Their defense, who faced 19 shots, was bailed out by Naeher’s five saves and three offside calls and their offense was only able to put up nine shots.
It’s worth mentioning that some of Chicago’s mainstays have been unavailable to start the season, including players like Morgan Gautrat, Mallory Pugh, and Kealia Watt. Ella Stevens, who has taken on a more substantial role in Chicago’s lineup this season, was also out for this game after a rib injury. It will be interesting to see whether Chris Petrucelli’s side will find their stride once those key players reintegrate into the lineup.
Chicago’s availability report aside, the Wave have put on exciting shows in their first three regular-season games. They’ll look to stay on top of the table and extend their win streak to four this Wednesday on the road at Lynn Family Stadium against Racing Louisville FC.