Casey Stoney has been named the NWSL Coach of the Year after leading the San Diego Wave to the playoffs in their first year in the league.

Behind Stoney, the Wave became first expansion club in NWSL history to reach the postseason, and they didn’t just sneak into a playoff berth. San Diego finished the regular season with a 10-6-6 record and the No. 3 seed before falling to the No. 2 Portland Thorns in the semifinals.

Stoney, 40, becomes just the second woman to win the league’s top coaching award.

Earlier Wednesday, San Diego’s Kailen Sheridan was named Goalkeeper of the Year.

Rookie defender Naomi Girma has been nominated for the Rookie of the Year, Defender of the Year and MVP, and star striker Alex Morgan also has been nominated for MVP, but the winners of those awards have not yet been announced.

The Wave surged to a 4-1-0 record in their first five matches of the regular season, including three straight wins to start the campaign.

The team allowed just 21 goals across 22 matches, and they outscored their opponents 32-20.

Stoney joined the NWSL and the Wave in 2021 ahead of the franchise’s inaugural season. The former English national team captain served as manager of Women’s Super League club Manchester United from 2018-21.

OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey finished second in voting, and Kansas City Current head coach Matt Potter came in third. Potter’s team will face the Thorns at 8 p.m. ET Saturday in the NWSL Championship at Audi Field in Washington.

With one week left in the regular season, the race to the NWSL playoffs remains tight.

Four teams have locked up their postseason berths, with help from stellar plays, while four other teams remain in the running for the final two spots in the six-team bracket.

NWSL Plays of the Week

Taylor Kornieck’s playoff-sealing equalizer

Kornieck was in the right place at the right time Sunday, slotting in a late-game equalizer against the Orlando Pride to help clinch a crucial standings point and San Diego’s playoff berth.

The Wave midfielder was perched in the box, waiting to pounce on her team’s set piece, before punching in a loose ball. With the goal, the Wave drew level with the Pride in the 87th minute.

With the 2-2 tie, San Diego became the first expansion club to advance to the NWSL playoffs.

While coach Casey Stoney expressed excitement about the club’s postseason berth, she was sober in her assessment of the team’s performance Sunday.

“We set our standards our expectations high and these players and my staff we want to achieve it so there’s just disappointment on the performance,” Stoney said. “I have to be extremely proud of how far we’ve come in a short space and time.”

Debinha’s hat trick

Debinha put on a show Saturday, logging a hat trick to lift the North Carolina Courage to a 3-0 win over Gotham FC to put her team in postseason position. With the win, the Courage control their own destiny heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

Of Debinha’s three quality finishes, perhaps the most impressive goal came in the 34th minute, when she volleyed a perfectly weighted ball past Gotham keeper Michelle Betos.

The 30-year-old’s remarkable showing earned the praise of coach Sean Nahas, who said Debinha is on a “different level.”

“Not sure there is a better player in the world right now,” Nahas said in a Twitter post after Saturday’s match.

Debinha now has 12 goals on the season, tied with Portland’s Sophia Smith for second in the Golden Boot race behind Alex Morgan, who leads the league with 15 goals.

Lo’eau LaBonta’s rocket

Lo’eau LaBonta continued to make her case for NWSL MVP as she helped the Kansas City Current to a 3-0 win Sunday over the Washington Spirit.

The shutout victory was critical for Kansas City, as it secured the Current a place in the NWSL postseason.

LaBonta opened the scoring in the 18th minute, striking a rocket from the top of the box for the go-ahead goal. The 29-year-old ran to the corner flag to revel in her banger, with one of the inventive goal celebrations that has become customary for the Current.

LaBonta has seven goals and four assists through 19 matches played, anchoring a surging Current side through the 2022 campaign.

Honorable mention

Portland’s Taylor Porter put the ball on a string, one-timing a worldie to the upper 90 to help the Thorns to a 3-0 win Sunday over the Chicago Red Stars.

San Diego Wave FC head coach Casey Stoney is speaking out on the coaching standards in the NWSL.

“We’re here to facilitate and develop players,” Stoney said during a press conference ahead of San Diego’s Sunday match. “We’re not here to scream, shout, and bawl at them.”

Responding to a question from womenkickballs, Stoney talked about her unique experience as a player and manager in England before assuming a head coaching position in the NWSL.

“We all know the stories that have come out of this league that are completely unacceptable that players should never ever have to face and go through,” said Stoney. “Players have different challenges in England that they still shouldn’t have to go through.”

Last year marked a watershed moment for the NWSL, with a series of coaches fired for alleged abuse. The reckoning was spurred by a report in The Athletic detailing accounts of sexual coercion against North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley. NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird, among others, stepped down in the wake of the scandal, while players demanded better protections in the league’s inaugural collective bargaining agreement.

“All I can hope is that we continue to have background checks on all coaches, that clubs do their due diligence on their staff, that they are resourced to the very highest level in terms of training facilities, medical care and also attitudes toward players,” Stoney added. “A player should feel safe in any environment that they go into, and my hope is that we have a safe environment that can be psychologically safe, physically safe, medically safe for the players.”

Stoney’s holistic, player-focused philosophy has paid off on the pitch, with her expansion club taking the NWSL by storm. The Wave currently sits atop the league standings, level in points with the Portland Thorns through 14 matches played.

Alex Morgan appears revitalized under Stoney, with the 33-year-old in the form of her career, leading the league with 11 goals scored on the season. Defender Naomi Girma and midfielder Taylor Konieck have also shone under Stoney, earning call-ups to the USWNT for the Concacaf W Championship.

Boasting an impressive 1.4 goals per match while only conceding 0.8, Stoney has put together a disciplined side that is in the running for the league title in its maiden NWSL season.

“We move into a new stadium on the 17th of September that we can get record crowds every single week. We can bring huge crowds in,” said Stoney. “We continue to grow this game because it can do so much for not only women but for society.”

The San Diego Wave have taken the NWSL by storm. The expansion club leads the league standings at the international break in its first season.

The Wave can’t get too comfortable, though. New talent, shifts in form and national team call-ups could shake up the table.

Where teams stand at the international break

San Diego Wave FC

The Wave (5-2-3) have been stellar in their start to the regular season, capping off their early run through the season with an emphatic 3-0 win over Gotham FC. Veteran forward Alex Morgan has served at the Wave’s anchor, scoring a league-leading 11 of San Diego’s 16 goals.

But as Morgan and fellow attacking force Taylor Kornieck report to international duty for the USWNT and Swedish international Sofia Jakobsson heads out for the Euros, the Wave’s humming attack could be tested.

Portland Thorns

Speaking of a humming attack, the Portland Thorns have been on a goal-scoring tear, leading the NWSL in goal differential at plus-14. The Thorns have managed to rack up an average of 2.3 goals per match while only conceding 0.8 goals per game, a promising stat for the Portland club.

Sophia Smith, the team’s leading scorer, and Becky Sauerbrunn, the club’s defensive anchor, will be with the USWNT for the Concacaf W Championship come July, presenting Portland with a challenge. The Thorns, however, have impressive depth and may fair better than other teams in terms of international player absences.

Chicago Red Stars

Like San Diego and Portland, Chicago’s attack is propelled by a red-hot USWNT striker. Mallory Pugh leads the Red Stars with six goals and two assists, helping the club a 4-1-4 record to start the season. Sitting on a seven-game unbeaten streak heading into the international break, Chicago has some padding to cushion the potential blow of Pugh’s national team duty.

Houston Dash

Houston has endured a roller coaster start to the NWSL regular season, sitting fourth in the standings with a 4-2-3 record.

Canadian international Nichelle Prince and England’s Rachel Daly have been solid for the Dash, notching five and four goals, respectively. A feisty team, leading the league in successful tackles per match with 16.1, Houston knows how to put together a win. The Dash, however, need to find some consistency and will hope a thrilling 4-3 win ahead of the break will be just the momentum they need.

OL Reign

OL Reign have all the talent — and more on the way — but has yet to live up to its potential. The Seattle club recently signed Tobin Heath, Kim Little and Jordyn Huitema to join a stacked lineup that includes Rose Lavelle, Jess Fishlock, Bethany Balcer and Sofia Huerta. With only a total of seven goals scored, OL Reign are second to last in goals per match at 0.8, even with their attacking firepower.

Heading into the break, OL Reign will look to get their team in sync in the final third and hopefully get Tziarra King more minutes on the pitch while doing so.

Angel City FC

The expansion club was dealt a crippling blow in its penultimate match ahead of the international break. Marquee player Christen Press tore her ACL, sidelining the star forward for the season. Without Press, the likes of Simone Charley and Jasmyne Spencer will have to step up as the new headliners of ACFC’s forward line.

Washington Spirit

Perhaps no team needs a break more than the Washington Spirit. The club weathered a packed start to the season, with coach Kris Ward relying on heavy rotation to rest his star players. Now, seven Spirit players will be away from the team as Ashley Hatch, Aubrey Kingsbury, Kelley O’Hara, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, Emily Sonnett and Andi Sullivan head to the Concacaf W Championship with the USWNT.

Washington enters the international team break on a 10-game winless streak and is in need of some synergy once the squad is rested and reunited.

Gotham FC

There were high hopes for Gotham FC ahead of the 2022 season, with many even referring to their campaign as a “win-now” scenario. The NJ/NY club has looked anything but “win now,” posting a 3-4-0 record on the year. Gotham’s attack has struggled, with the team only scoring five total goals for a discouraging 0.7 goals per match.

Heading into the international break, Gotham FC will need to build out its midfield, securing the lineup so Kristie Mewis can be released into the attack.

Racing Louisville

Racing Louisville heads into the break after a promising 2-2 draw against the Washington Spirit. Nadia Nadim’s return from her ACL injury has buoyed the team, with the veteran scoring in her first two 2022 appearances with the club. Nadim’s potential to link up with Jessica McDonald could bode well for a Racing Louisville team that appears to be slowly growing into their season.

Kansas City Current

Kansas City was dealt a devastating blow to start the season, with new acquisitions Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams both sidelined due to injury.

Though down the standings and without key players, the Current have some positives to hold on to. Kansas City ranks third in the league in big chances created, according to FotMob, with Kristen Hamilton headlining the team’s attack. If the Current can button up their defense and convert more of their opportunities up the pitch, the club may be able to move up the table.

Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride has had a trying 2022, falling to 11th in the NWSL standings at the international break.

With five losses on the season and a staggering goal differential of minus-15, Orlando could use a pick-me-up. The team stumbled into the break after falling to the Thorns 6-0 in a thumping from the Portland side, following up their 5-0 thrashing from the Dash. With coach Amanda Cromwell on leave pending an investigation into alleged retaliation in violation of league policy, Orlando will look to turn around a rocky regular-season start on and off the pitch.

North Carolina Courage

The Courage have struggled since taking home the Challenge Cup title in May.

After several COVID-19 absences, North Carolina seems to be growing into their season. Debinha and Kerolin have been explosive for the Courage, while Carson Pickett continues to dominate the flanks. Though North Carolina is currently last in the standings, the team holds a level goal differential, forecasting a promising next leg of the 2022 campaign.

San Diego Wave FC experienced its first stumble of the regular season Wednesday, falling to Racing Louisville FC 1-0.

The team was without coach Casey Stoney, who was left behind in San Diego after testing positive for COVID-19. But the defense remained sound, with only a free kick by Louisville making it past the team’s back line and through the goaltender.

“It was a frustrating evening for us,” said Wave assistant coach Rich Gunney, who took over for Stoney in the interim. “Obviously, we’re disappointed with the result. It’s tough on the road, especially with a short turnaround.”

Savannah DeMelo was the owner of said free kick in the 27th minute. She sent one high into the net from roughly 30 yards out to put the Wave behind for the first time in the new franchise’s regular-season history. The goal made SportsCenter’s top 10 plays for the day, coming in at No. 10.

It’s just the second goal scored on San Diego through four matches this season. It’s also the first win of the season for Racing Louisville. The team has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, which limited practice time and led to some reshuffling in the lineup.

“It shows that we have a lot of depth on this team,” DeMelo said postgame. “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.”

Both sides generated nine shots over the course of the match, with Racing goalkeeper Katie Lund making four saves on the evening.

The Los Angeles Sparks announced Monday that they have hired Vanessa Shay as their new president.

Shay joins the Sparks from the NWSL, where she was chief revenue officer for San Diego Wave FC since the team’s inception in 2021.

She oversaw all revenue generation for the NWSL expansion franchise, and she was key in the signing of the team’s kit sponsors and its medical partner. Also during her tenure, the club had its first consecutive sellouts.

“Through an exhaustive, national search, it became clear that Vanessa was the right leader for our organization,” Sparks managing partner Eric Holoman said in a statement. “Her strong commercial background in the L.A. sports and entertainment market will be instrumental to the Sparks continued growth. She has a deep passion for women’s sports and is committed to leading the Sparks through a new era of success.”

Before joining the Wave, Shay was vice president of global partnerships for AEG Worldwide for 13 years. While with AEG, she oversaw the launch of L.A. Live, which is a $2 billion entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles.

“I look forward to making an immediate impact on the franchise for fans, partners and our players,” Shay said in a statement. “The Sparks are one of the premier franchises in women’s sports, and I am committed to innovating our business operations and building on the championship legacy of the organization.”

Shay also has been an executive board member for the LA chapter of Women in Sports and Events for the last 10 years. In 2018, she was named an International Sports Leaders Under 40 award winner and was invited to and completed a WISE leadership program at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

The Sparks are back in action for their home opener Tuesday against the Minnesota Lynx.