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Madison Pogarch talks full circle moments and forging traditions in San Diego

For the Wave FC defender, expansion teams are setting new standards and helping to grow the NWSL

Houston Dash v San Diego Wave FC
Madison Pogarch for San Diego Wave FC
Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

This Saturday, the San Diego Wave is finally going home. The club will play their first ever match at Snapdragon Stadium, located on the campus of San Diego State University at Mission Valley. To say that there is fan excitement around the match would be an understatement. The game was announced as a sellout with an NWSL record breaking 32,000 fans expected to attend.

For Wave newcomer Madison Pogarch, playing in front of crowds this size is something she relishes. In fact, she was involved in the last record-setting NWSL game in 2019 when her former club, the Portland Thorns hosted the NC Courage in front of 25,218 fans. For Pogarch, it feels like a full-circle moment.

“The last attendance record was made at Providence Park, and I was in that game. Now, to be breaking that record again this weekend, it’s really cool for me, I feel super honored,” Pogarch told AllForXI. “It’s a testament to where women’s soccer is going and what happens when you invest in women’s sports - which we’ve been saying for ages. It creates a great atmosphere for everyone involved. Everyone wants to be part of that.”

Rutgers Roots

Prior to the NWSL, Pogarch played collegiately first at Central Michigan University, and then at Rutgers University in New Jersey for the Spring and Fall semesters of 2018. The Michigan native credits her time at Rutgers for giving her the final piece of preparation in her journey to the pros. There, she was able to find out how good she really was, and see how she stacked up against other players and teams in the Big Ten conference.

“My decision [to finish out my collegiate career] at Rutgers was because I knew I wanted to play pro,” she said. “I knew Rutgers was a competitive school in a competitive conference. I saw quite a few players [out of Rutgers] get the opportunity to go pro. It was a good option for me.”

In fact, there are several former Scarlet Knights currently playing in the NWSL, including Pogarch’s Wave teammate Amirah Ali. The two overlapped in their time at Rutgers in 2018, and Ali was the first player that Pogarch met there. In another full-circle moment, Pogarch has the opportunity to play with the rookie again.

NWSL: Houston Dash at San Diego Wave FC
Madison Pogarch (16) congratulates forward Amirah Ali (7) after her goal in the second half against the Houston Dash at Torero Stadium.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

“Amirah is unbelievable. I really enjoyed playing with her in college. She’s always been super talented, a star studded player, and it’s just great. I love her as a person and a player,” Pogarch said. ”I really appreciate her. She definitely deserves to be in this league, and with the performances she’s been putting on, she continues to show that. I’m really proud of her.”

Welcome to the Wave

In a headline breaking trade, Pogarch, who had played for the Thorns since signing in 2019, was traded to the Wave on July 25. Leaving Portland was not easy for the 24-year-old defender, but she had no doubts about coming to San Diego.

“We have a great group in the locker room, lots of talent on the roster, and with Casey Stoney having the reputation and qualities she has as a coach, I’m happy to be here,” she said.

Coming from the Portland Thorns, a club rich in history and tradition, Pogarch now has the opportunity with the Wave to be part of an organization forging their own traditions and culture. On Saturday, the Wave will start a new tradition, playing their first-ever game at their new home - Snapdragon Stadium.

“We’re all buzzing,” Pogarch said. “We see numbers that LA can put up and the atmosphere they bring, and for us to have the opportunity to do that with LA there, it’s going to be an historical weekend for sure. I’m excited to feed off the energy.”

For Pogarch, the crowd is truly that 12th player, and their energy feeds into the momentum of the game. “I’m excited to feel that, feed off it, and I’m probably going to be screaming, too. Hopefully you won’t be able to hear me because it’s going to be so loud!” Pogarch said. “I’m really pumped to be in that energy and absorb it that night, because it’s going to be so cool, historic, and hopefully we get all three points.”

The fact that they’ll be facing their California state rivals and fellow expansion side Angel City FC adds an extra layer to an already highly anticipated match. For Pogarch, having this rivalry is important to the future success of the NWSL. Both California teams have been performing well, and having the outside banter with the fans will only help the league grow. “I love it!” Pogarch said. “Banter and a little competition within and outside of the game is huge, and it should be a fun one.”

Regardless of the new rivalry, Pogarch says the Wave is focused on getting a result. “We are still in the Shield Race. It’s really tight at the top, so we’re looking at this game saying we don’t have room to drop any points,” she explained.

If the Wave were to win the Shield, they would again make history. No NWSL expansion side has ever won the Shield or even made it to the playoffs. Angel City, while still below the playoff line, is only six points off the top of the table and well in contention for a playoff berth.

Including Saturday’s game, the Wave have three more regular season matches to secure their playoff spot. The team currently sits third in the table with 31 points, only one point behind first place Kansas City.

“To look at where we are now, even where LA is, it is much further along than where expansion teams have been previously,” Pogarch said. “It hasn’t been abnormal to see brand new teams at the bottom of the group. So for not only one, but two teams to come in and push that standard, we’re changing that.”

As the season winds down and the post-season is on the horizon, the Wave is not backing down. “To be making the playoffs and be fighting for the shield, and holding first place for 11 weeks straight, we haven’t seen it in this league,” Pogarch said of the expansion side. “That alone is something to be noted. But we’re not settling for that by any means. We want to win everything!”