With a strong defensive effort Saturday, San Diego Wave FC shut down the Portland Thorns, retaking first place in the National Women’s Soccer League.
The 2-0 win puts the Wave (9-5-4), with 31 points, two points ahead of second-place Houston Dash, defeated by San Diego last week at Torero Stadium. The Dash tied the Washington Spirit 2-2 earlier Saturday.
“Massive squad effort,” said Wave head coach Casey Stoney. “So pleased for the players. I thought they earned this victory, and they deserve it.”
Wave defenders repeatedly cleared the ball at the Thorns’ net at Providence Park as goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan earned her 20th NWSL career shutout. She became the seventh player to reach this milestone.
On the club’s defense, Stoney said: “They stood strong against one of arguably the best front runners and forwards (Sophia Smith) in the league, so I have to be really pleased with that.”
After the match, Sheridan said: “We want to take it to the next level — and the past two weeks, I feel like the team has trained the strongest they have all year and the most competitive.”
With an assist from Alex Morgan, Kristen McNabb netted her second goal of the season in the 17th minute.
In the 42nd minute, Morgan, No. 13, gained her 13th goal of the season, kicking the ball to the right of Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby’s leg. It was Morgan’s 51st career goal.
On Morgan, Stoney said: “She keeps getting better and better. She’s a bit of a fine wine at the moment, isn’t she?”
The club’s performance away from home was “some of the best football we’ve played in a while,” Stoney said.
“To do that in a pressure cooker like this [Providence Park] just shows how far this team has come in such a short space of time, but they believed today that they could get a result,” the head coach said. “They worked through it and are worthy of it.”
The Thorns (7-1-8) fell into third place.
After another away match against the Washington Spirit at 2 p.m. next Saturday, the team will move into their new pitch at Snapdragon Stadium in Mission Valley.
The club announced this week that more than 27,000 tickets have been sold for its September 17 home opener against Angel City. That total exceeds the NWSL attendance record for a single game in its history. The venue seats 35,000.
The Wave is hoping for a sellout for its first match at the $310 million stadium, which opens Sept. 3 when the SDSU Aztecs host the University of Arizona Wildcats in football.
Kris Ward, head coach of the Spirit, was fired after an alleged incident at training last week. Ward’s dismissal comes about one year after former Spirit coach Richie Burke was suspended for alleged verbal and emotional abuse of players.
Meanwhile, defender Naomi Girma, midfielder Taylor Kornieck and forward Morgan have been named to the U.S. Women’s National Team 23-player roster for two September friendly matches against Nigeria on Sept. 3 and 6.
Sheridan has been named to Canada’s 23-player roster, and midfielder Emily van Egmond to Australia’s for two friendly matches against one another.
In other news this week, the Wave signed forward Jackie Altschuld to its 2022 NWSL roster, with a contract with the club for the remainder of the season.
Altschuld graduated from the University of San Diego, where she was named to NSCAA All-West Region Third Team and 1st team All-WCC in her 2016 senior campaign.