Every June, Pride Nights are celebrated across the NWSL with teams designating a specific home match to commemorate the occasion.Embed from Getty Images
This year, Pride celebrations were no different than what we had seen in the last few seasons, but there is something different in the air; unity. In previous years, the rainbow hues, the captains armbands, the corners flags and flags all filled the stadiums joining in on the celebration.
This season, unity rang clearer than it has ever before. Teams have partnered with their local LGBTQ+ communities in efforts to help give back to their campaigns. Merchandise, an essential part of every Pride night, was made readily available through team stores. The NWSL official website also teamed up with the NWSLPA to create this season’s brand campaign, Pride Plays Here. Solidarity and Unity can be found on and off the pitch, which has spearheaded this slogan. It has made the inclusivity of the league more meaningful than in seasons past.
San Diego Wave Welcome OL Reign For Pride Night
Looking at this much-anticipated match between 4th and 5th place in the rankings, San Diego Wave FC had the opportunity to come up big and land a spot even closer to the top. With the NWSL season almost halfway through, this matchup could be the spark that sets up the teams for the final push for the playoffs.
On the road, OL Reign went into the match off of a goalless draw against the Houston Dash while San Diego were hoping to put the 2-1 home defeat to Angel City FC behind them.
Battle of the Water Coolers
Some label this the undisclosed water cooler battle with Laura Harvey and Casey Stoney notoriously coaching while sitting on a water cooler. Nevertheless, both coaches have a certain culture that is very recognizable. Their coaching styles are always tactful and both bring a certain level of excitement and energy.
Throughout the match, supporters were able to pick up their Pride merchandise from the team store. A portion of all the Pride pack proceeds go to San Diego Pride. This year’s Pride Jersey has a neckline detail reading, San Diego is Love, in addition to the rainbow hue colors filling in the numbers on the back of each kit. The Sirens Supporters Club displayed rainbow-colored streamers that stretched the entire length of one section. This was in addition to the pride flags and posters plastered around Snapdragon Stadium, reassuring that everyone is welcome here.
The Match: First Half
As the match kicked off, OL Reign were patient in their attack. The precise placement and tactic was spotted early as the Wave continued to play out of the back, allowing OL Reign to force the pressure. The first goal came in the eighth minute with a wonderful header from Bethany Balcer. A chip from Quinn sent the ball into the box where it took a bounce before Balcer got a head to it. There was no way for Kailen Sheridan to anticipate, let alone stop the ball from going in.Embed from Getty Images
Heading into the interval, OL Reign maintained their lead and also left the pitch with a feeling of confidence. The continual pressure they put on the Wave was evident. On the flip side, San Diego was relentless and persistent with different opportunities to score. Unfortunately, the final third was a bit of an Achilles heel in the first half, and would also prove to be a similar case in the second.
During halftime, viewers got to see something that may be a rarity. A proposal took place on the pitch in front of 22,682 people. Talk about the pressure of making that move! Congratulations to the couple, and what a way to ring in Pride night.
The Match: Second Half
Within the first few minutes of the second half, Alex Morgan and Jaedyn Shaw linked up to level the score. A beautiful cross from Morgan into the middle of the box was perfect for Shaw, who was able to divert the ball into the net. This statement let the crowd know that Wave were coming out and meant business. The goal was Shaw’s fourth of the season and the seventh of her professional career.Embed from Getty Images
Tactically the second half was better for San Diego. Some of the miscues were rerouted and chances grew more for the Wave than in the first half. However, as the time ticked on, Balcer added her name to the score sheet again. In the 77th minute, a wonderful cross from Sophia Huerta landed near the back post catching the Wave off guard. Balcer took advantage, putting her team back in front with less than fifteen minutes to go.
The real excitement came close to stoppage time. It is not a normal match when a goalkeeper gets carded, let alone sent off the field. Sheridan received a Yellow card, then was recalled and a Red card issued. She was sent off in the 90th min when a tackle inside the 18 was judged maybe harsher than needed. Jessica Shae Yanze Couey, the backup goalkeeper for San Diego Wave FC, came into play for the remaining 9 minutes of stoppage time. Her first time on the pitch for this match and she comes up with a massive stop that only gives the Wave more hope that they can level this match. Unfortunately, San Diego fell to OL Reign 2-1.
Pride Remains Strong
It was a tough loss for the Wave with OL Reign raining on their parade. The Wave defensively looked to be a little weak. Missed opportunities in the final third could have resulted in leveling the playing field, especially in the 83rd minute. Squaring up against tough competition, San Diego have to be more direct in their buildup in order to catch squads off guard. Working out from the back can have its advantages, but can also cause some issues as displayed in this match. OL Reign did a wonderful job managing the pressure. The side capitalized on every opportunity presented to them, and controlled the tempo for most of the second half. The match might not have been in favor of the home team, but the Pride festivities did not stop there.Embed from Getty Images
With just a week left in June, Pride Month comes to a close for the calendar month. But that does not mean the celebrations stop.
Anyone actively involved in the LGBTQ+ community knows that this month is a reminder of progress. Every day is a celebration of equality, and we should take pride in ourselves and celebrate the diversity that makes up the human race. However, the beat continues to change for those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community that live in the United States.
The Fight Continues
Throughout the following months, the daily fight for who you are and what you stand for is growing more complex. State legislatures across the country introduced more than 540 discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ+ community this year alone—successfully passing 45 of them. The month of June is the one month that can bring about a safe haven for all people to enjoy the freedom of expressing one’s true and whole self.Embed from Getty Images
The importance of Pride is not to push aside all the people who are different from you, but to show your allyship to them. Embrace them and make sure they know that they are someone that is worthy of love and respect.
For years, the horror stories of what the folks in the LGBTQ+ community have gone through or are currently experiencing are not for the faint of heart. Having to deal with legislation continually telling you that you are not welcome to use our services (or even worse: you can no longer live in your state due to who you are) is difficult to understand.
That is why two San Diego Wave FC soccer players have started a campaign. “The future is inclusive” is the slogan we all long for. Christen Westphal and Maddie Pogarch have designed a shirt bringing that slogan to life. They teamed up through San Diego Youth Services to help raise support for a local supporter of the LGBTQ+ community: Our Safe Place. They offer a variety of services to San Diego’s LGBTQ+ youth community including helping queer youth with their own self-discovery. All profits go towards Our Safe Place when you purchase the shirt—assisting to make queer youth feel that they have a place in the world. Not only do you show your support for all humans to feel like their rights and voices matter, but you also get a rad shirt when doing so.
Click here for more details about the shirt and to learn more about Our Safe Place.