SAN DIEGO, Calif. — On paper, the first National Women’s Soccer League game of the 2023 season at Snapdragon Stadium looked a lot like the final game the venue hosted last year: a San Diego Wave victory over the Chicago Red Stars.
Plenty has changed for both teams since that first-round playoff game in October, however, and on Saturday, the Wave looked like a team ready to be more tactically flexible this season. Those changes came with learning curves and perhaps some nerves in front of over 30,000 fans, but that is to be expected on opening day.
“We knew our performance wasn’t going to be perfect, but you have to get it done,” Wave goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan said.
Alex Morgan’s penalty kick in the 89th minute is what eventually got it done, delivering a 3-2 victory to the Wave after a wild first half that featured four goals, including a penalty kick converted by Chicago deep into stoppage time.
San Diego rolled out a more narrow formation than its typical 4-3-3, and the key was 18-year-old Jaedyn Shaw tucking inside into central areas to play-make and get on the ball, rather than stay isolated on the wing.
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