Savannah DeMelo’s curled-in free kick from 27 yards out stood as Racing Louisville FC’s game-winning goal in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over the first-place San Diego Wave at Lynn Family Stadium.
It was the rookie’s first goal of her professional career, and it beat one of the top goalkeepers in the world in Canadian national team keeper Kailen Sheridan, who was fully outstretched to her left but could only get her fingertips on the ball.
The win was Racing’s first of the season, and it came despite three expected starters missing the match because of COVID-19 protocols. Racing (1-1-2) also posted its first regular-season shutout, with goalkeeper Katie Lund making four saves, including a late goal-line stop to preserve the victory.
“You can really see the fighting spirit – everybody supports,” Racing coach Kim Björkegren said. “It doesn’t matter if you play 90 minutes or two minutes or nothing at all, everybody is there to support. I’m really proud of this group.”
For Racing, the result represented the breakthrough the team has been pushing for in regular-season play. A 2-1 loss at Chicago to open the season felt unfair to the performance, which Racing felt was good enough to at least draw. The 2-2 tie at OL Reign in Seattle and the 1-1 draw at home against Houston both illustrated the squad’s mental toughness, with Racing rallying to score equalizers in each effort.
“It’s just such a relief getting those three points,” said midfielder Jaelin Howell, whose strong play in the midfield kept Racing on the front foot for long stretches of the game. “Once you break the seal, I feel like the next few points will come easier and easier. So, I think we’re all super excited. We work so hard for those three points, and we’re just going to build off that.”
Howell mentioned the 3-0 win over Kansas City in the NWSL Challenge Cup as a rallying reminder on Wednesday night – that was Racing’s road victory against the first-place team in its group in the preseason tournament. The Colorado native said Racing’s players told each other they “just have to believe in ourselves and play for each other” as they did in Kansas City.
“Hopefully teams are kind of like, OK, like Louisville has something – we need to watch out for them,” said Racing defender Emily Fox. “It just shows that we are a winning team and that we’re getting better and better and we’re improving.”
DeMelo’s well-struck effort was the exclamation point on the performance. Fans voted the rookie midfielder Player of the Match thanks to the goal, plus three fouls won and three chances created.
The USC grad said the win was especially rewarding because of the lineup shuffling that had to be done. Racing scrambled to put together a lineup in Saturday’s tie against Houston, and the team only practiced once – late Tuesday – to prepare for Wednesday’s game.
“It shows that we have a lot of depth on this team,” DeMelo said. “No matter if you never play or if you play all 90 minutes, once you step on the field, I think everyone is equal. I think it showed these past two games. I’m just really excited that we got our first win under all those circumstances, and now we know what we have and just carry it forward to this weekend.”
Game Summary: Racing Louisville FC vs. San Diego Wave
Date: May 18, 2022
Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Weather: 70 degrees, cloudy
Player of the Match: Savannah DeMelo
Racing Louisville (1, 0, 1)
San Diego Wave (0, 0, 0)
Racing Louisville FC:
27’ Savannah DeMelo
Racing Louisville FC (4-2-3-1): 1 – Katie Lund; 11 – Emily Fox, 26 – Addisyn Merrick (90’ 22 – Kirsten Davis), 3 – Erin Simon,17 – Nealy Martin (73’ 15 – Julia Lester); 6 – Jaelin Howell, 7 – Savannah DeMelo; 2 – Lauren Milliet, 5 – Cece Kizer (73’ 13 – Emina Ekic 73’), 27 – Alex Chidiac (81’ 23 – Sh’Nia Gordon); 14 – Jess McDonald (c)
Subs not used: 24 – Jordyn Bloomer; 9 – Ebony Salmon, 12 – Taylor Malham, 19 – Taylor Otto, 21 – Parker Goins
Head Coach: Kim Björkegren
San Diego Wave (4-2-3-1): 1 – Kailen Sheridan; 20 – Christen Westphal, 4 – Naomi Girma, 2 – Abby Dahlkemper, 19 – Tegan McGrady (16’ 26 – Mia Gyau); 23 – Belle Briede (67’ 14 – Kristen McNabb), 5 – Emily van Egmond; 22 – Taylor Kornieck, 10 – Sofia Jokobsson (78’ 15 – Makenzy Doniak), 27 – Marleen Schimmer (46’ 13 – Alex Morgan); 6 – Kelsey Turnbow (67’ 33 – Katie Johnson)
Subs not used: 31 – Melissa Lowder, 9 – Jodie Taylor, 18 – Kaleigh Riehl,17 – Sydney Pulver
Head Coach: Rich Gunney (interim)
Stats Summary: Racing Louisville / San Diego Wave
Shots: 9 / 9
Shots on Goal: 6 / 4
Possession: 50.1% / 49.1%
Fouls: 7 / 16
Offside: 4 / 1
Corner Kicks: 10 / 10
15’ Lauren Milliet (yellow)
89’ Erin Simon (yellow)
San Diego Wave:
37’ Mia Gyau (yellow)
44’ Kelsey Turnbow (yellow)
Referee: Joshua Encarnacion