Big Weekend For NWSL! — Alex Morgan talks record crowd — Must-click woso links

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Sept. 19, 2022

Happy Soccer Monday! Were you in that crowd in San Diego? Here’s where we stand as the NWSL regular season draws to a close.

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The expansion San Diego Wave are in first place in the standings, just one point up on the Houston Dash and the KC Current. The Dash have the edge on goal differential. A point behind them is the Portland Thorns.

The Reign is a point behind Portland, and the Red Stars are another point back in the sixth and final playoff spot (for now).

So yes, it’s tight. And yes, anything can happen in the final few games of the season. The Reign and Thorns each have three games left, and while the rest of the top six have two.

Perhaps it’s just because I live in a soccer bubble here in Portland, or maybe it’s because six teams make the playoffs this year, or maybe it’s because the race is so tight, or maybe it’s because San Diego is grabbing so much recent attention, but it sure feels like there’s more buzz about the league heading into the postseason than ever before.

I’ve written before here about expansion driving interest in the league, and while I don’t want to give California too much credit (Ha!), I do believe that it was a boon to the league to expand into the SoCal market. The emphasis isn’t whether the NWSL is `on the verge’ of breaking out any more.

The Athletic’s Meg Linehan touched on it with this piece on Angel City’s opener back in April. Angel City made it cool to support women’s soccer, with its slate of celebrity owners. The opener at Banc of California Stadium drew a sellout of 22,000 and now the team has unseated the Thorns with the NWSL’s highest average attendance of 18,755 a game. (Portland is averaging 15,133.)

The Wave’s success, and the effort to sellout Snapdragon Stadium, just built on this momentum. Having a high-profile name like Alex Morgan atop the Golden Boot race adds to what the NWSL has built this season.

That’s important to note, because last season at this time the league was reeling from a series of scandals and struggling with a (rightfully) tarnished image. I remember folks asking if the NWSL could survive the hit.

While the NWSL still obviously has issues to deal with — Sally Yates is due to release her investigation into harassment and abuse in the league early next month — it’s heartening that there are also positives to point to. Just 12 months later, the future looks considerably brighter.

Jill Ellis had said she wanted to make crowds like the one this weekend at Snapdragon the norm, rather than a special event. That might not happen right away, but there are signs that the audience is there. Now the task is getting more big-name sponsors, and games on TV.


ESPN on Wave attendance record

The hometown San Diego Union Tribune on the sellout.

The Guardian on how the Wave did it.

On Her Turf’s Alex Azzi looked at the weekend’s slate of NWSL games.

Jeff Kassouf makes his end-of-season NWSL picks for the NWSL

The Athletic on Tobin Heath’s injury

The Philadelphia Inquirers’ Jonathan Tannenwald on lessons Ellis can give on expansion

Just Women’s Sports looks at how the October friendlies will impact the NWSL playoffs.

US Soccer released new uniforms for the remainder of 2022, the men will wear these at their World Cup but it is my understanding that the women will get new ones for Australia/New Zealand.

People Magazine covered Crystal Dunn’s return.

US Soccer says the Sally Yates investigation is drawing to a close.

Switzerland launches bid to host the women’s Euros

Women’s refs strike deal to end strike in Spain.

Taylor Vincent with a nice story on Cari Roccaro for The Equalizer.

Pedro Lopez named new coach of the Mexican women’s national team.

Really good interview with Emma Hayes from The Guardian.

The strange case of Aminata Diallo continues.


Five at The IX: Alex Morgan

Question: Can you give us your thoughts on the match?

Morgan: I just want to focus on the fans and the fact that this organization has the ambition of selling out this stadium the first game we were here. We did that. That’s a testament to the ambition of this club and what we are looking to do in the coming years. If this is year one, there is so much to look forward to. To get the win here tonight, grind it out, and have an incredible save by Kailen [Sheridan] at the end to keep us on top, was what we needed. To have the fans behind us from minute one to the last minute was incredible. Such a memorable moment for all of us.

Question: What the attendance says about women’s soccer in the U.S.

Morgan: To think there wasn’t a team in California before this year is just crazy. Seeing the fan base with Wave FC and Angel City FC is incredible. This rivalry is just going to keep heating up. It’s just different knowing that the game in the US is growing so much. The league has taken quite a few years to get their feet under them and market well and get quality on the field, great front offices, organizations, training facilities, stadiums- it has taken 8, 9,10 years to build that. I am really proud of where we are at with Wave FC and the NWSL and I am just looking forward to continuing on this path and for the future. This game is a really big moment, it’s different- you can’t really compare it with the national team. To see the fans in our city come and support us- we are just excited, we want to put good products on the field week in and week out.

Question: What was it like to come out of the tunnel and see the crowd?

Morgan: It was such a beautiful moment. To see soccer in California not exist before this season for many years, to see San Diego embracing us as a women’s professional soccer team so quickly in the way that they did it was just a great moment. It felt like we were home and had 32,000 fans behind us from the first minute and it was a great moment to enjoy and remember.

Question: Can you talk about Jaedyn Shaw and teaching her?

Morgan: I hope to teach her to keep staying confident and taking on players and doing exactly what she’s doing. At this moment, it’s not about coaching her in a certain direction or teaching her something, it’s allowing her to have the freedom to do exactly what she’s doing and having the confidence in that. We’ve seen that in the last three games, she’s made an impact in every single minute she’s stepped on the field.

Question: What is your message to young players about success:

Morgan: I think there is no secret to success. It’s about working hard, it’s all about believing in yourself, having confidence and having a really good support system, whether that’s coaches, teammates, family, a personal coach, just building up a system so you can ride the waves of ups and downs. Sports are volatile sometimes, you have to be strong in the good and bad moments.

Question: How did it feel to break the attendance record?

Morgan: I just love breaking records. It feels good. Tonight was another one for us. To see so much growth and progress is happening in women’s soccer globally while we are playing. In the same week, we signed the equal pay agreement, and then have the highest attendance record here today in the last 10 years of the NWSL. It is just incredible. It’s really a fun time to be a soccer player right now and just enjoying the moment.

Question: You looked like you got frustrated at times.

Morgan: I definitely play with passion so sometimes I get a little emotional. I think our defensive positioning was a little off. I think we played some poor passes in the middle of the park that got picked off unnecessarily. I think with that sometimes I felt as I was pressing I felt we didn’t have our ten or our other players around me helping me and that grew frustrating but I think as the game wore on and Kailen [Sheridan] saved that penalty, it was all about closing out the game and at the end of the day we grinded out the win and we will look back and see what we need to work on. But of course, there are frustrations here and there with positioning or certain defending but overall, I want to focus on the good things tonight and that’s this crowd, Jaedyn’s [Shaw] goal, Kailen’s [Sheridan] incredible save.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by Annie Peterson