NWSL East Week 19 Update

The North Carolina Courage have clawed their way into a playoff position.

By Kathryn Field

Three teams in the East will end their seasons by Sunday with NJ/NY Gotham, the Orlando Pride, and the Washington Spirit all missing out on the playoffs. The three teams have struggled to score goals all season despite their highly talented rosters. The only team in the East currently in a playoff spot is the North Carolina Courage, which sits right on the cusp in sixth place going into the final game of the season. 

OL Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle (16) during the National Womens Soccer League game between NJ/NY Gotham FC and OL Reign on September 21, 2022 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

North Carolina Courage climb into playoff position

The North Carolina Courage have successfully climbed into a playoff position, sitting sixth in the league. After going 3–1 in the last four games, the Courage is the highest-ranked team in the east. The only loss came from the No. 2 OL Reign, a 2–1 defeat. 

Debinha has been a standout player for the Courage in the fight for a playoff spot. She has been responsible for five goals in the last three games she has played for the Courage, including a hat trick against NJ/NY Gotham. As the Courage goes forward into the last month of play, they will likely lean on Debinha for her goal-scoring ability. 

But before the playoff run can begin, the Courage has one final game on Friday when it takes on the No. 4 San Diego Wave at 10 p.m. ET. This game will be a challenge for the Courage but it also gives the team a chance to possibly get one last regular-season win over a higher-ranked team.

Orlando Pride continues winless streak

The Orlando Pride has continued to slide in the standings after going more than a month without a win. The Pride also went three games straight without scoring a single goal. Once the highest-ranked team in the east, the Pride now finds itself sitting outside of the playoffs going into the last game of the regular season. 

Meggie Dougherty Howard, the Pride’s leading goalscorer, will likely have a lot of weight on her shoulders going into the final game. Howard was responsible for one of two goals in the Pride’s last game against the San Diego Wave. With three goals on the season, Howard will look to make a final attempt at growing her goal total and lead the Pride to one last win. However, the last game will be a challenge for the Pride as it takes on No. 2 OL Reign on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on Twitch.  

NJ/NY Gotham ending a season to forget

NJ/NY Gotham has not won a game since their July 8 showing against Racing Louisville and will likely end the season on a 13-game losing streak as their final competitor is the No. 1 ranked Portland Thorns. Gotham also has not scored a single goal since August 28 against Angel City. The team has struggled all season to score goals and has not been able to make improvements despite having top-notch goalscorers like Paige Monaghan and Midge Purce. 

Ifeoma Onumonu heads the ball during a match between NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Washington Spirit, on September 17, 2022 at Audi Field, in Washington DC. (Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Purce has three goals in just 15 games but hasn’t been able to find the back of the net since late July. Monaghan was responsible for the last Gotham goal in late August and the two attackers will be integral in scoring chances in the final game of the season. 

The 2022 season will be one to forget for Gotham as it sits in last place in the league. The final game of the season is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. ET against the Portland Thorns on Paramount+. 

Washington Spirit look to win final game of the season

The Washington Spirit will miss out on the playoffs this season as it sits at No. 11 in the league. The Spirit appeared to be turning the corner in early September with back-to-back wins against San Diego and NJ/NY, but followed the win streak with two losses to Angel City and Kansas City. 

Ashley Hatch leads the Spirit in goals with nine on the season, including the lone goal in the loss to Angel City. The attacker has been a leader for the Spirit and will look to find the back of the net in the final game of the season. 

The final match of the season on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET against the No. 5 Houston Dash will be an uphill battle for the struggling Spirit. However, the Dash struggled in the month of September with only a close 1–0 over the Chicago Red Stars. Hatch could lead the Spirit to a close win over the Dash to finish the season strong on Saturday.

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