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NWSL Challenge Cup Preview - Match Day 1 of 6: Portland Thorns @ San Diego Wave
With the first-ever million-dollar prize pool to U.S. women's soccer, the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup will give teams an additional chance at a trophy, bragging rights, and record prize money.
For the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup, UKG has stepped up once again to double the prize pool after raising it by ten fold in 2022.
“UKG’s equity-driven sponsorship of the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup solidifies a historic win for NWSL athletes who have persistently fought to claim a level playing field,” said Jessica Berman, NWSL commissioner. “Our athletes have long been on equal footing with their male counterparts in terms of skill and ability, and UKG’s partnership is critical to advancing the league’s extensive efforts to raise awareness and rectify the unfair reality that women on and off the field are being short-changed, literally.”
The NWSL Challenge Cup requires each team to play 6 group stage games during the season. In order to move on to the knockout rounds, you must win your group or be the best second place finisher. Each point is crucial and will make a difference.
For the Portland Thorns to win their second ever Challenge Cup, they’ll have to go through the group of death: OL Reign, San Diego Wave, Angel City.
This group’s level of difficulty is high and the team who wants to advance must win the round robin.
Portland will be facing off against two semi-finalists from last year’s playoffs and an Angel City team who are adding superstars Julie Ertz and (reportedly) Amandine Henry.
On Wednesday, Portland will travel to Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego to open up their NWSL Challenge Cup campaign.
The Thorns will have one extra day of rest on the San Diego Wave, but will be on the road against a huge crowd.
Both teams will be monitoring their stars minutes, which could mean that there will be players who will get extra minutes or even their first starts.
Projected Starting XI:
This is extremely difficult to pinpoint as both teams have many players who played during international breaks and also logged major minutes over the weekend.
Head coach Mike Norris has consistently mentioned player safety and rotations in his media availabilities. I expect him to rotate most of the starters in order to be as fresh as they can be for Racing Louisville next Saturday.
Don’t be surprised if Smith, Dunn, Weaver, Coffey, or Klingenberg are late subs if the game is close.
Leon/Sugita - Sinclair/Betfort - D’Aquila
Moultrie - Porter - Rocky
Reyes - Provenzano/Menges - Nally - Kuikka
Thorns Injury Report:
Out: Janine Beckie, Tegan McGrady, *Michele Vasconcelos
Questionable: Emily Menges, *Adriana Leon
*Vasconcelos picked up a knock near the end of the game and looks to be day to day, the team has not provided any updates as of yet.
*Leon is still waiting for the receipt of her P-1 visa and International Transfer Certificate (ITC).
San Diego: 4-3-3
Jakobsson - Hill - Turnbow
Briede - Colaprico - Enge
Pogarch - Girma - Riehl - Gyau
Wave Injury Report:
*As of April 14
OUT: Abby Dahlkemper (back), Meggie Dougherty Howard (thigh), Giovanna DeMarco (knee), Emily van Egmond (back), Melanie Barcenas (illness)
San Diego 2-1
Goals: Hill (SD), Jakobsson (SD), D’Aquila (POR)
Assists: Briede (SD), Jakobsson (SD), Sinclair (POR)
The Snapdragon Stadium crowd is going to play a huge part, even for a midweek game. Casey Stoney is one of the best head coaches and is going to have her team ready to go.
San Diego and Portland both have great depth, but the Wave have the edge in the attacking frontline. If the Thorns could get Leon cleared and ready, that will be a huge difference maker. One defender they’d also need back: Emily Menges.
Players to Watch
San Diego - Sofia Jakobsson is the player to watch in this match. If she is allowed to roam free and dribble, it’ll be a long night.
Portland - Izzy D’Aquila is the perfect player for the NWSL Challenge Cup, as she would be a starter on many frontlines. She’ll have the opportunity to make her first start in her home state of California and showcase all her immense talent.
Don’t Miss It!
2023 NWSL Challenge Cup: Group Stage - Match Day 1 out of 6
Portland Thorns @ San Diego Wave
Wednesday, April 19 at 7pm @ Snapdragon Stadium
is going to have your recap and highlights after the match.
What is your Starting XI for the first match of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup?