Gotham FC, OL Reign advance to semifinals in NWSL playoffs

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 20: Sydney Leroux #2 of Angel City FC advances the ball against Alana Cook #4 of OL Reign during the second half at Lumen Field on October 20, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

If you missed the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs this weekend, don’t worry. You didn’t miss the last matches of two-time World Cup champions Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger. Both of the retiring players’ teams advanced to the NWSL semi-finals, set for after the international break. 

Here’s how the first round of playoffs unfolded.

NWSL: OL Reign defeats Angel City FC with late winner

OL Reign forward Veronica Latsko’s fifth goal of the NWSL season came at just the right time. In the 87th minute of Friday’s match, Latsko headed home a bending cross from left-back Phoebe McClernon to put the hosts up 1-0 over Angel City FC.

The scoreline held for what Rapinoe called a “tough, dig-in” kind of win.

Despite winning three NWSL shields, the No. 4 seed OL Reign has never won an NWSL title and hasn’t won a playoff match since 2015, the year of their last championship appearance. This victory puts the team one match closer to untouched postseason success.

Angel City entered Friday’s match in strong form, only losing once in its prior 11 regular-season games with interim head coach Becki Tweed. But, a strong defensive performance from OL Reign meant goalkeeper Claudia Dickey dealt with no direct saves on the night against an Angel City side that put up five goals against the Portland Thorns a week prior.

Laura Barnes, another OL Reign veteran alongside Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock, dished out an impressive night of distribution.

A nagging April knee injury had sidelined Rose Lavelle for club and country since Sept. 3. But, the U.S. national team midfielder subbed in for OL Reign in the 64th minute of the match against Angel City.

The Seattle side will hit the road and face NWSL shield winner San Diego Wave FC on Sunday, Nov. 5, 9:30 p.m. ET.

NWSL: Gotham FC wins first playoff match since 2009

In 2009, the last time NY/NJ Gotham FC won a pro women’s football playoff match, the club had a different name — Sky Blue FC. 

A 2-0 upset over No. 3 North Carolina Courage ended the drought for Gotham. 

At the edge of the eighteen, Gotham midfielder Delanie Sheehan toe-poked the ball past the Courage defense for her first-ever NWSL goal in the 45th minute. Forward Yazmeen Ryan added an insurance goal in the 91st minute after a quick transition, with Lynn Williams muscling away the ball and sending in a left-wing cross.

In the attack, North Carolina was missing its MVP candidate Kerolin Nicoli on Sunday after an ACL tear in the Courage’s regular-season finale. The Brazilian forward, who scored 10 NWSL goals and finished runner-up in the league’s Golden Boot race despite missing time for the World Cup in July, was placed on the season-ending injury list on Saturday.

Gotham’s defense closed down the Kerolin-less North Carolina attack, chipping away the Courage’s NWSL-record possession and pass completion by ten percentage points.

Gotham is onto the semifinals after finishing last in the NWSL in 2022. NY/NJ will travel to Portland to face the defending NWSL champion Thorns on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. ET.

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