San Diego Wave FC unveils crest and stadium at official launch

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The San Diego Wave FC had its first, forgive the pun, big splash as a women’s football franchise on Wednesday afternoon, hosting a launch event at UC San Diego’s Scripps Seaside Forum with a podium supported by a giant video screen, live webcasting, speeches, presentations, appetizers, gift bags and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.

Asked about her expectations for the Wave’s inaugural season in the 12-team National Women’s Football League, star forward Alex Morgan told the few hundred in attendance: “I think we want to win a championship.”

Morgan then covered himself slightly: “Obviously, there are going to be growing challenges with an expanding franchise. But we are off to a very good start.

The club owned by billionaire businessman Ron Burkle and run by former United States women’s national coach Jill Ellis have unveiled their emblem: a wave curving above a sunset on the horizon , in pink, orange and some shades of blue.

The other big announcement of the day was made by San Diego State Athletic Director John David Wicker, who confirmed what was widely expected: The Wave will play at 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium in Mission Valley during of its opening next September. The club’s temporary home from March to August will be the 6,000-seater Torero Stadium at USD.

“We are going to create the best on-court advantage in the NWSL,” Wicker promised.

Morgan took the stage to answer questions from defender Abby Dahlkemper, the club’s first acquisition. Head coach Casey Stoney too, who fulfilled his obligations at the event and then rushed to find them teammates.

Most of the list should be secure by the weekend. The NWSL expansion draft takes place today (4 p.m., CBSSN) and the college draft is Saturday.

The Wave and newcomer Angel City FC from Los Angeles will participate in the first, each being allowed to select a player from nine other teams. Kansas City Current, which joined the league last season, is exempt.

Teams can protect a maximum of nine players and can only lose one from the US National Team. Many are making pre-draft deals to avoid anyone being selected, and Stoney said the Wave did with six teams – some of which have yet to be announced.

The three remaining teams are Seattle’s OL Reign, Houston Dash and Racing Louisville FC.

The list of unprotected players includes some of the biggest names in the game: national teams Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (Houston) and Tobin Heath (Louisville).

Problem is, they’re all in their thirties (Rapinoe is 36) and while providing instant star power, that might not be safe for an expanding franchise that already has a 32-year-old forward at Morgan. .

“The hard part is I want players who want to be here,” said Stoney, who was previously the coach of the Manchester United women’s team. “You have to know if the player wants to move. In England, if you move from Chelsea to Manchester City, it takes four hours to drive. If you move from Gotham FC (New York) to here, you’re moving someone across the country.

“You want to know: are they going to be happy where you take them, are they going to thrive, are they the right character? There is a lot more to consider as you go through this. I want players who are fully involved. I want players who want to make the trip, because I’m going to ask a lot of them and I’m going to stretch them and I’m going to set some expectations on them. “

The biggest need, Stoney said, is the midfielder, which they will try to meet in the expansion draft while picking the best player available with their five varsity draft picks. Teams can also recruit foreigners from outside the league who do not qualify for the draft.

The NWSL rosters are 26 players and depth is a necessity in a league that doesn’t always take a break during FIFA’s international windows. You could lose your national team players for a week or two; in most cases you are playing without them.

But the experience of building a list from scratch isn’t new to Stoney.

“I’ve done it before,” she said. “At Manchester United, I built this whole team. I did it in four weeks. Here I had a little more time. Obviously, there are times when your stress levels increase depending on the conversations you have: are you going to have that player, aren’t you going to have that player?

“But at the end of the day we know we’re in a really desirable place, we’re building something really special and the players really want to be here.”

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