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NWSL makes big progress as San Diego Wave hits historic record-breaking home opener

SAN DIEGO — The gates at Snapdragon Stadium opened Saturday at 5:00 PM PT to welcome San Diego Wave FC’s first home game. Less than five minutes later, Jill Ellis, the team’s president and former USWNT head and his coach, showed up dancing and taking selfies.

She was there from 3:30pm, four and a half hours before kickoff. After all, she was a big part of why the home opener was such a highly anticipated match.

Earlier this summer, Ellis reached out to NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman to make a bold statement.

Internally, Ellis didn’t just say that she started a wave of fans (pun intended) who have ignited a fire publicly and gathered behind this team striving for greatness. Saturday saw an attendance of 32,000 fans, marking the largest crowd in NWSL history, and in 2019 Portland broke his previous mark of 25,218 set by Thornes.

“Incredible pride. I’m very proud of where we are,” Ellis told Yahoo Sports. A lot of hard work has obviously come to this point, both on and off the pitch, and it’s this culminating moment that’s very special.”

The game couldn’t have been better as 17-year-old Jaedyn Shaw scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Angel City FC.

It was iconic for the rookie teenager to score a historic goal on that stage.

Despite the results, Wave FC were less than pleased with their performance. Angel City played arguably his one of the best games of the year, with a penalty in the 74th minute he shot a perfect equalizer from the spot. San Diego goaltender Kylen Sheridan came up with a brilliant save and was soon greeted with the loudest roar as the chants of “Beat LA” filled the air as the realization of a perfect night drew nearer.

But if you take away all the X’s and O’s in soccer, the message becomes one of creating something beyond the scoreline.

The head coach of the Waves said: “When I was a kid I didn’t even have the courage to dream because I was told I shouldn’t play and I couldn’t play. Especially in England it’s a men’s game and there’s I didn’t have a career,” he said. Casey Stoney. “From what I’m looking at right now, I think he’s 32,000 here for the San Diego wave. Look at the women’s Euros this year and the crowds. We’re really working on something special. and I think it transcends society.”

The San Diego Wave’s Jedin Shaw celebrated with a goal against Angel City FC in the first half of Saturday at Snapdragon Stadium. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

The Wave played its first nine home games at the University of San Diego’s 6,000-seat Tolero Stadium. So everyone at Snapdragon Stadium had to feel good about contributing to this moment, including fans traveling from Los Angeles. Women’s leagues and sports are all too often overlooked, but showcasing world-class athletes on that scale is proof of what can happen with support and belief.

San Diego and Los Angeles are the first two teams to set records and shatter expectations. This is great for Southern California as a market, but invaluable for his NWSL as a young league.

Berman has only been at the helm of the league for a few months, but as she soaked up the atmosphere, she couldn’t help but be optimistic about the future.

“This combination of both sporting and business performance really creates a foundation that will allow not only San Diego, but the entire league to infuse our future with an unprecedented level of enthusiasm,” she said. told Yahoo Sports.

The NWSL continues to make strides and expects to see a sold-out crowd once again at the championship game on October 29 in Washington, DC.

San Diego, who currently sits at the top of the league table, is also likely to join the moment. About to add to the list of honors like the book. As she said with a grin on Saturday, “I love breaking records. It feels good.”

Regardless of how the year ends, it’s a win. In so many ways. Opener is a constant reminder of that.

“As someone who has been involved with this game for 30 years, I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Stoney said. “Who can do this without another coat of arms is like England who rely on Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool to get huge crowds, but this is the San Diego wave and in eight months. It’s there and it draws this kind of audience, and it shows what San Diego is like as a community.”

It turns out that Ellis knew exactly what he was doing when he made that ambitious promise.