Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings us all the news from the first week of Finals action in the NWSL (18/10/22).
Above: San Diego Wave players celebrate after their comeback win over Chicago Red Stars. Photo: @sandiegowavefc.
Alex Morgan’s 110th-minute goal secured a comeback win for the San Diego Wave as they beat the Chicago Red Stars at the SnapDragon Stadium.
Chicago dominated proceedings in the opening minutes and made their opportunities count in the tenth minute through Yuki Nagasato. San Diego’s Kailen Sheridan’s bizarre attempt to pass failed to reach her teammate leaving Nagasato open for the lobbed pass beyond a hapless Sheridan putting the visitors ahead.
Wave grew more into the game despite the Red Stars having more clear-cut chances. At the half-hour mark, both Sarah Luebbert and Mallory Pugh had chances but Luebbert saw her shot gathered while Pugh’s attempt could only go wide.
Casey Stoney’s side ended the half in confidence with a flurry of chances. Midfielder Taylor Kornieck was the target of Wave’s corners but she could direct her header in the 41st minute into the back of the net. Alex Morgan, whose influence had been limited in the half also had her header saved four minutes later.
The home side started the second half dominant in possession and their persistence in Chicago’s half finally paid off in the 67th minute when Emily Van Egmond got the equaliser. Following brilliant play by Sofia Jakobsson down the left flank, the Swede’s cross was poorly dealt with and the Australian was in the right place to pick up the pieces and score her first of the season.
The goal would force the game to go to extra time as neither team could find the advantage over the other in the final minutes of the regular time.
Two minutes before the end of the first period, Airah Ali had a chance to put San Diego ahead with her first touches of the game but her shot rippled the side netting only. The momentum was in Stoney’s charges’ favour and Alex Morgan made it count putting them 2-1 ahead with ten minutes left in the game. The ball was well-rotated and found its way to Morgan on the left flank and from a tight angle managed to slot in the far corner past Alyssa Naeher.
San Diego would hold on to win the game and set up a semi-final clash against Portland Thorns in Providence Park next week.
Earlier in the evening, Kate Del Fava’s last-gasp winner helped the Kansas City Current get over the Houston Dash away at the PNC Stadium in Houston.
The action was only three minutes old when Current were awarded a penalty. Dash defender Katie Naughton fouled Kristen Hamilton inside the area and after a couple of minutes, the ever-dependable Lo’eau LaBonta stepped up to easily slot in the spot-kick for the lead.
Parity was restored 16 minutes later when Sophie Schmidt fired in from the back post. From a Dash corner, Current goalkeeper Adrianna Franch could only punch the ball in Schmidt’s path and the Canadian made no mistakes in punishing the away side.
Neither team could exert their dominance for the remainder of the half but Ebony Salmon and Maria Sanchez made their presence felt with attempts and neither could get the net to bulge.
In the second half, the shot-stoppers from both ends had to be at their best to keep their teams in the game as they pulled off save after save. French had to deny Sanchez and Salmon again as she managed to tip over the English youngster’s effort over the bar. Jane Campbell on the other end was at hand to stop Elyse Bennett from helping Matt Porter’s charges to a lead.
A wild sequence of play emerged in the fourth minute of added time when Kansas City pushed forward to find the winner but Cece Kizer couldn’t stretch out enough to meet Bennett’s cross inside the box. Houston went down the other end seconds later with Michelle Alozie finding herself 1v1 with Franch but the keeper got the better of the Nigerian, blocking her shot that was aimed toward the far post.
In the tenth minute of stoppage time, Alex Loera and LaBonta combined superbly and Loera’s low cross led to a goalmouth scramble won by Del Fava to bundle in a scrappy goal, her first of the season to silence a sold-out PNC stadium.
Kansas City will now face NWSL Shield winners OL Reign next Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.