San Diego Wave FC draw 1-1 with NJ/NY Gotham FC at home

Julia Kapros-USA TODAY Sports
Hanna Lundkvist’s equalizer in the first half led San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — On Mother’s Day the San Diego Wave FC took on NJ/NY Gotham FC at the Snapdragon Stadium last night in the teams’ first match up of the 2024 season. The last time the two had faced off was in last season’s Challenge Cup Final where San Diego defeated Gotham 1-0. 

In the highly anticipated rematch, both teams came short of a victory only managing to score 1 goal each. Gotham’s goal came in the 24th minute with defender Jenna Nighswonger finding Ella Stevens in front of the goal. Stevens shot it directly in off the volley without any opposition around her, marking her first goal with Gotham this season. The goal was the second time San Diego has allowed a goal first in a match. 

San Diego’s lone goal came in the 64th minute off an incredible in-swinging corner kick by midfielder Savannah McCaskill which found its way to the back of the net off of defender Hanna Lundkvist’s head. The goal marks Lundkvist’s first goal with both San Diego and the NWSL. This was an exciting moment for both the Swedish defender and McCaskill as it was her first assist for the Wave after leaving Angel City FC before the season began. The Wave have now scored in the last 16 of their regular season games, the most of any team in the league. 

McCaskill played a significant role throughout the match, creating spaces and opportunities for shots and for teammates such as Jaedyn Shaw and Mya Jones. Her long passes and strong defense help move the ball along and establish San Diego’s momentum towards the end of the first half. 

María Sánchez came on at the start of the second half as a substitute for Mya Jones marking her fourth game as a substitute and the first match in which she’s played 45 minutes in. Sánchez has now played 105 minutes for the Wave. Head coach Casey Stoney has previously said she will continue to slowly integrate Sánchez into the Wave’s system and allow her to adapt better to her team. 

Sánchez contributed numerous chances for the Wave and had two goal opportunities off of free kicks in the 60th and 95th minute. Although she wasn’t able to capitalize off them, they were strong attempts that helped keep the Wave in the game. 

The true stars of the match were none other than goalkeepers Kailen Sheridan (Wave) and Ann-Katrin Berger (Gotham) who continued to hold each other’s team to 1 goal. Sheridan, the Wave’s Impact Player of the Match, showed phenomenal skills and saves throughout the match. The 2022 NWSL GoalKeeper of the Year had six impressive saves, stopping a variety of shots and heavily chopping up Gotham’s momentum in the first half. Although the match wasn’t a clean sheet, Sheridan stopped Emily Sonnett and Esther’s powerful attempt at a goal in the 54th minute. 

Reflecting on the match Sheridan spoke about the team’s performance against Berger, “I think we had some incredible chances but she stood on our heads and kept us out”. 

She spoke about the noticeable shift in the team after Gotham scored, “As soon as that goal went, we had about 5 minutes of disappointment and then we got disappointed in ourselves for that disappointment and Casey kind of got into us. You know ‘we’re not out of this game yet’ and bring ourselves back in. I think we had a momentum shift in the 15 minutes at the end of the first half.”

One of the biggest challenges San Diego faced were creating and exploiting spaces for attackers to utilize against Gotham’s defense. Shaw was one of the center pieces in this match with her ability to find and exploit gaps in opposition very well and strong finishing ability when receiving in the penalty area; however, players struggled to connect long passes to her in the first half. 

The first half saw several missed attempts by both teams as they fought for dominance and possession against each other. San Diego struggled to make effective passes and plays while they had possession, a challenge they’ve faced consistently throughout the season. Gotham played a high line and counter attack as usual while San Diego pushed hard on defense and they hoped to move the ball up the pitch. The Wave’s utilization of their ball possession played a large part in not walking away with a victory. 

Despite fighting for possession all the time, throughout the season San Diego has been better in counterplays and their transitions but Gotham suffocated nearly every chance and was more effective in their tactical decisions. San Diego had 52% possession compared to Gotham’s 48% however they failed to vary their crosses, fight off Gotham’s attacking pressure, and only started to become more clinical in their decisions of when to attack and which spaces to exploit later in the second half. San Diego’s pass accuracy fell short with only 69% compared to Gotham’s 73%. 

The Wave remained without key players Alex Morgan, Naomi Girma, Abby Dahlkemper, Sofia Jakobsson, and Melanie Barcenas due to injuries however the squad has shown signs of improvement in navigating how to play light of their absences. Star girl Jaedyn Shaw was taken off the pitch in the 90th minute after sustaining what appeared to be a lower leg injury. It is unclear whether this will result in her absence next game. 

The game marks the end of the Wave’s five-game winning streak against Gotham, the Wave’s longest winning streak against a single opponent, and brings their season record to 3-3-2. Last night’s draw also meant that the Wave’s winning home match streak of three ended as well. 

The wave remains 8th on the league table with 11 points, still one point behind Gotham. The team will once again face off against new expansion team Bay FC at PayPal Park Stadium on Friday May 17th at 7:30pm.