Determined Wave beat Bay, 2-1

Abe Arredondo-USA TODAY Sports
The Wave secure a much-desired victory at home.

The San Diego Wave was eager to win on Saturday. They had failed to win their previous two matches, ones featuring uncharacteristically poor performances. Winning was the standard for the 2023 NWSL Shield winners, but they had struggled to do so early in 2024.

However, against Bay FC, the Wave played with a chip on their shoulder, and it paid off with a 2-1 victory. The back-and-forth match featured similar possession and expected goal (xG) numbers, but the Wave’s grit and tempo willed them to victory. 

“We came out with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder since the last few games haven’t gone necessarily as we wanted, and everyone was the best version of themselves tonight, and they think that’s how we were able to battle through when we needed to ultimately get the result,” said defender Kennedy Wesley.

While Bay created twice as many chances (12 versus six), the Wave often generated higher-quality looks. That started 11 minutes into the match when forward Makenzy Doniak received a ball open at the back post, but she struck a shot poorly, failing to redirect the ball on target.

However, two minutes later (13’), Doniak made up for the miss by striking a shot into the top corner of the net from the edge of the box, giving the Wave a 1-0 lead. 

“That was a brilliant finish,” said head coach Casey Stoney about the goal. “That first goal is fantastic from [Doniak]. She had an incredible impact.”

The Wave wore down Bay as the match progressed. However, Bay came out of halftime on the front foot, and forward Asisat Oshoala equalized in the 48th minute. 

Nonetheless, the Wave quickly regained momentum, substituting forwards Jaedyn Shaw and Maria Sanchez into the match in the 64th and 68th minutes. 

Sanchez made her highly anticipated Wave debut after the club acquired her from the Houston Dash.

Talented substitutes and a worn-down Bay side opened a window for the Wave to strike. In the 78th minute, they scored a brilliant team goal, finished by Shaw. Midfielder Savannah McCaskill played a ball wide to forward Elyse Bennett, who found Shaw in front of the goal. Shaw tapped in the ball to score the winning goal, 2-1. 

The goal displayed remarkable chemistry among players who are still fine-tuning their play with each other. McCaskill and Bennett joined the Wave in the offseason ahead of the 2024 season. 

“It was just a matter of allowing the ball to do the work,” McCaskill said. “We talked about how we want to play offensively, especially breaking teams down in the final third. It is exploiting gaps and having people in spaces rather than always making extra movement. Sometimes staying in spaces is okay.”

Also notable was 16-year-old midfielder Kimmi Ascanio, who made her first NWSL start. Her game featured ups and downs, but she contributed to Doniak’s goal with an assist, becoming the third-youngest player to record a goal contribution in the NWSL. 

Ascanio took 30 touches, completed 18 of 25 passes (72%), and made six recoveries before being substituted at halftime for Emily van Egmond. 

“Kimmi [Ascanio] came in and did excellent… She did really well at times, and at times looked 16, so that is going to take time. But I thought in her debut start, she was excellent,” Stoney said.

Third-round pick Mya Jones, who played 68 minutes, also made her first NWSL start (and debut).

The win was the Wave’s first since late March, an important one to keep pace with other teams early in the season. It was also a potentially significant moment in NWSL history as it was the first time the Wave and Bay faced off and possibly the start of a new rivalry.

However, the Wave was more focused on securing three points than the possibility of a rivalry. They showed up well, with players buying into the message about the importance of a victory.

“It was good, coming off the back of two pretty poor performances as far as our standards go, that was needed,” McCaskill said. “We needed to show up at home and get three points.”

The Wave may not have as much of a chip on their shoulder, but similar grit levels could be critical moving forward. Next, they play Seattle Reign on Friday, and they have a chance to build momentum.