NWSL playoffs thrill soccer fans
As October winds down, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) wrapped up its season with an exciting playoff week, consisting of two semi-final games and the championship game. The four teams competing for the crown highlighted national soccer stars alongside young up and coming players, making for some incredible games and upsets.
After the regular season, the NWSL Shield was given to the Portland Thorns for their regular season record of 12 wins, 5 draws, and 3 losses. The Thorns, who have national soccer stars Tobin Heath, Lindsay Horan, and Meghan Klingenberg, played the Western New York Flash in the first semi-final game.
The Flash consists of a young team with stars Samantha Mewis, who had earned herself a call up to the US women’s national team (USWNT) roster (and who scored a goal against Switzerland in their international friendly last week), Lynn Williams, the league’s MVP and had her first cap and goal for the USWNT against Switzerland, Abby Dahlkemper, who was called up to the USWNT, and MaKenzy Doniak, a standout forward from the University of Virginia.
The game was dramatic, going into extra time to determine the winner. Sam Mewis in the 16th minute and Makenzy Doniak in the 38th minute put the Flash up 2-0, before Christine Sinclair, longtime forward for the Canadian Women’s National Team scored in the 39th minute to make it 2-1. Shortly after Sinclair’s goal, Flash coach Paul Riley was ejected from the game for arguing with officials. In the 77th minute, Emily Sonnett leveled the game at 2-2 forcing the game into extra time. In the early minutes of extra time, Lynn Williams scored to put the Flash up 3-2, however there is no golden goal, so the extra time continued. Williams scored another goal in the 102nd minute. With the clock running down, Lindsay Horan scored for the Thorns to make it 4-3, giving the Thorns a spark of hope. But time ran out, and the Flash defeated the Thorns to move on to the championship game.
In the other semi-final round, the Washington Spirit, who have longtime women’s national team defender Ali Krieger and young forward Crystal Dunn, played versus the Chicago Red Stars, who have national team forward Christen Press, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defender Julie Johnston, and newcomer Casey Short, who was also called up to play in the USWNT’s friendly, earning her first cap. The game was also a nail-biter, going into extra time. The game’s first goal was scored in the 36th minute when Ali Krieger headed a pass from defender Shelina Zadorsky into the net. The Red Stars’ leveled the game with a goal from Christen Press assisted by Casey Short with 9 minutes to go in the game. Press, in the 90th minute, took a shot that went off the crossbar, and the game headed into overtime. In the 111th minute, the Spirit’s Francisca Ordega scored the game winner off an assist from Christine Nairn, sending Washington to the final.
Like the semi-final games, the final was suspenseful and extra time and a shoot out were needed to determine the winner. Crystal Dunn got the Spirit on the board first, with a breakaway goal in the 8th minute. Five minutes later, Sam Mewis scored, assisted by Lynn Williams to make it 1 all. In the first minute of extra time, Dunn scored her second goal of the game. The Spirit just needed to make it through 19 more minutes of extra time to win it all. But Williams, in the 123rd minute, and last seconds of stoppage time, answered with a tremendous header to force the game into penalty kicks. In the shootout, Sabrina D’Angelo, the Stars’ goalkeeper, stopped three of Washington’s five attempts. Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys kept their hopes alive by stopping Sam Mewis’ kick. But D’Angelo saved Diana Matheson’s attempt to give the fourth-seeded Western New York Flash it’s first championship title, winning 3-2 in the shootout.