Pride off the field warms hearts more than display on the field in San Diego


San Diego Wave 0 : 3 Chicago Red Stars

Ocasionally in sport, there is a disconnect between the passion on the field and off the field. That exhibited itself at Snapdragon Stadium on Friday night. San Diego Wave had declared the home match with Chicago Red Stars Pride Night and the joy at such an occasion was evident throughout with many rainbow flags, banners and t-shirts on display.

More memorable than anything however were just the smiles. People, gay and straight smiling. Smiling because fans of the Wave of all hues take pride in the inclusive atmosphere they have created,

NWSL is generally a very welcoming arena – for gay women especially  – but on this occasion, joy and acceptance were everywhere. This was colourful California and American soccer culture at its very best.

The story of perfect harmony on the field was very different.

San Diego Wave had parted company with their coach, Casey Stoney, amid a run of bad results and non-descript performances. That’s normal in soccer but the rest of the story left many minds open to the possibility that it wasn’t the whole story.

Outgoing San Diego General Manager Molly Downtain had left in mid-April. The club had been without a general manager since and promises of an announcement went unfulfilled.

Finally after nigh on two months without one, the appointment of Camille Ashton was announced in the second week of June. Ashton had relinquished that same role at Kansas City Current three weeks previously. The midwest club led the NWSL at the time (and still do), and are now unbeaten in 15 matches.

No disrespect to the attractions of Kansas City, but the lure of San Diego can be powerful and club President Jill Ellis clearly set out to hire the best in the business.

On her appointment, Ashton told the media:

“This is a club with a clear vision for success and a commitment to excellence.

“I look forward to working closely with Jill, Casey, the coaching staff, support staff, players, ownership and front office to help this club win more trophies and make a lasting impact in this city.”

13 days later, Stoney was fired.

The club moved very quickly to distance the new GM from the decision.

Ellis claimed Ashton had no involvment in Stoney’s dismissal. Was it unusual to hire a GM and then make the biggest possible call about the club without her knowledge or approval?

If the decision was totally made behind her back, Ashton would have every right to be furious, and even more right to resign. If it wasn’t done without her participation, why did the club go out of its way to claim it was? There was a mood of scepticism about the place.

Ellis said that the decision to fire Stoney was “made independent of our new general manager” Ashton, who has not yet fully relocated to San Diego.

The whole story may come out in time but the chalice fell to interim coach Paul Buckle to put a side out against mid table Chicago Red Stars.

The Illinois club had little difficulty exploiting the uncertainty and scored three times.

The first contained some fortune as Mallory Swanson’s shot took a massive deflection off Naomi Girma and looped over helpless but faultless Wave goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. The defence were static and claiming off side as Jenna Bike fed Swanson the pass but replays showed Abby Dahlkemper to be playing her onside.

To Dahlkemper’s credit, she was the one defender not claiming an offisde as the Red Stars celebrated.

Two goals in two minutes in the second half though put this encounter beyond the Wave.

The excellent Swanson scored Chicago’s second after Jameese Joseph robbed a defender while Wave were somewhat ditheringly and predictably playing the ball out from the back.

Two minutes late, the ever alert Joseph picked the pocket of the hesitant Dahlkemper and waltzed though a dispirited defense for an easy third goal.

Wave did have a few attempts on goal but the finishing was below par. Savannah McCaskill had two opportunites which were spurned and Jaedyn Shaw produced a spectacular save from Stars custodian Alyssa Naeher.

Their best chance came from the penalty spot after Melanie Barcenas fired in a shot which hit the arm of Sam Staab. Alex Morgan however skied the penalty over the bar.

The Red Stars end a five-match winless streak and move up to seventh while the coachless Wave lie tenth.

They cannot find a new head coach soon enough as the current side seems to be in disarray and some of the more rookie mistakes are coming from their most experienced players.

Prost Amerika Player of the Match: Jameese Joseph

San Diego Wave 0 : 3 Chicago Red Stars (Highlights)

All San Diego Wave

All Chicago Red Stars




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