SAN DIEGO — Portland Thorns FC spoiled the San Diego Wave Fútbol Club’s first game at Torero Stadium with a 1-0 victory Saturday on Sophia Smith’s fifth-minute goal in the NWSL Challenge Cup group play game.
Smith took a pass from Natalia Kuikka and put a shot directly in front of the net from six yards out past goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan for her first goal of the tournament.
The best scoring chances for Wave FC (0-1-1) in the 90-minute game came in the 19th and 51st minutes. Goalkeeper Abby Smith made a kick save on Alex Morgan’s shot just in front of the goal in the 19th minute.
Smith also made the save on the 51st-minute shot by Amirah Ali, who entered the game at the start of the second half.
“We expect more from ourselves,” Sheridan said. “We know we’re a team that’s growing and that we have only been together for eight weeks and tonight was a good performance but it’s definitely not good enough. We expect more from ourselves and will see that next week for sure.”
The game drew a sellout crowd at the 6,000-seat stadium at the University of San Diego. Wave FC will regularly play at 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium, set to open in September at the former site of San Diego Stadium.
The game extended Portland’s (1-0-1) run of scoring exactly one goal to nine of its last 10 competitive road matches dating back to last season. The 10 straight away games without scoring multiple goals is the longest such streak in NWSL competitions for the team that began play in 2013.
Wave FC will play at least two more Challenge Cup games at Torero Stadium, next Saturday against Angel City FC and April 23 against OL Reign before opening regular-season play on May 1 at Houston and playing its regular-season home opener May 8 against NJ/NY Gotham FC.
“I think we’ve grown a lot since the first game, but we know that we can definitely turn it up so much more,” Ali said referring to the 1-1 tie with fellow expansion team Angel City FC, 1-1, last Saturday at Titan Stadium at Cal State Fullerton.
“We’re working on it so much in practice and we just want to keep implementing it in the game. We’re just proud of our performance but know we can do better.”
The top team from each of the three four-team groups will advance to the semifinals, along with the highest placing second-place finisher. The semifinals will be played on May 4 and the championship on May 7.
The tournament was initially played in 2020 as the league’s return to action following the cancellation of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic and was the first professional team sports event to return to play in the United States.
It was intended to be a one-time-only event but has since become an annual event. It is similar to the cup competitions held throughout the world concurrent with the league season.
Cardiff resident Taylor Hansen recently joined the Wave after a stellar career at the University of Montana.