Naomi Girma shows appreciation for fan cheers after the match. Photo by Chris Stone
Naomi Girma shows her appreciation for the fans after a match last season. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diego Wave FC begins their second season at their new home, Snapdragon Stadium, at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Chicago Red Stars.

The team, in its inaugural season, far outpaced the performance of a typical expansion club, reaching the playoffs and logging a win over the Red Stars before falling to eventual champion Portland in the NWSL semifinals.

“I think we exceeded everyone’s expectations last year,” said head coach Casey Stoney of the Wave, which ended the 2022 regular season in third place with a 10-6-6 record. “I don’t think we exceeded our own.”

Stoney, speaking to the media Thursday, called her team “a very capable squad” that plays for a club with “a vision to keep growing and developing.”

“We’re also aware we’re in our second year,” she continued. “Yes, there’s going to be pressure and expectation. I see pressure as a privilege, so I think it’s great for our players if that expectation is there.”

Honors poured in for the team after the season concluded – for Stoney, Coach of the Year, and dual awards for Naomi Girma, Rookie and Defender of the Year. Alex Morgan, who won the league’s Golden Boot, finished second in MVP voting.

Though goalkeeper Carly Telford retired, additions include Sierra Enge, a draft pick who hails from Cardiff, and a former teammate of Girma’s at Stanford, where they won a national championship in 2019.

“She’s one of my really good friends, and I think for the team, she’s super technical, really smart on the ball, so I think she’s going to just continue raising the level for us and that’s what we need,” Girma said.

Stoney described the team as “looking really good health wise,” though defender Abby Dahlkemper will not be ready, as she continues to recover from a back injury that caused her to miss parts of last season and required off-season surgery.

Tickets remain available for the home opener, which includes a FanFest on the stadium’s East Lawn. Admission starts at $10. Their second game, on April 1 against the North Carolina Courage, is also at home.