San Diego wins in a quarterfinal thriller to advance to the semis to face Portland. Kansas City heads to Seattle to take on NWSL Shield winners OL Reign.
Following the completion of Week 20 of NWSL play, the Yates Report was released and depicted in great detail the systemic sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and racism in both the NWSL and US Soccer and how people in positions of power failed to protect the players time and time again in order to protect the abusers. Understandably, it threw the entire women’s soccer world into a tumultuous whirlwind. There was no Week 20 update for this reason.
So here is a brief summary of Week 20 action: San Diego tied North Carolina, and in doing so, clinched a hosting position for their quarterfinal playoff match. Angel City barely missed the playoff cutoff and have set themselves up in a good position to continue building next year. Portland had the chance to win the Shield Saturday against Gotham and were up 3–1 at one point in the second half, but let Gotham come back and tie it. OL started their final matchup knowing that if they won, they’d take home the Shield. They scored three goals in the first half and Phallon Tullis-Joyce had a shutout to put a bow on it.
Also this past week, the NWSL announced its shortlists for the 2022 Awards:
Most Valuable Player, presented by Budweiser: Debinha (NC), Naomi Girma (SD), Alex Morgan (SD), Mallory Pugh (CHI), Sophia Smith (POR)
Defender of the Year: Alana Cook (RGN), Naomi Girma (SD), Sofia Huerta (RGN), Carson Pickett (NC), Becky Sauerbrunn (POR)
Goalkeeper of the Year: AD Franch (KC), Kailen Sheridan (SD), Phallon Tullis-Joyce (RGN)
Rookie of the Year, presented by Ally: Sam Coffey (POR), Naomi Girma (SD), Diana Ordóñez (NC)
Coach of the Year: Laura Harvey (RGN), Matt Potter (KC), Casey Stoney (SD)
San Diego wins it in ET, will face Portland in Providence Park
San Diego faced Chicago Sunday night in front of a record-setting playoff crowd at Snapdragon Stadium. Taylor Kornieck and Alex Morgan were both marked as questionable before the match due to injuries against Orlando in Week 19, but both came out with amazing performances and lasted the entire match. Chicago drew first blood when the Wave goalkeeper, who has been shortlisted for GK of the Year, made an uncharacteristic turnover while playing out the back, and Yuki Nagasato was able to chip it in to put the Red Stars up 1–0 in the 10th minute. Chicago was extremely dangerous in the first half outshooting and out possessing the Wave.
San Diego made some great adjustments in the second half; switching to a 4-4-2 instead of their normal 4-3-3 allowed them to really get the pressure higher up. It also helps that San Diego has a deep bench and was able to bring on Sofia Jakobsson to start the second half. Jakobsson played tremendously up the left side and was a constant threat to the Red Stars defense. In the 67th minute, San Diego was finally able to equalize when Emily van Egmond poked the ball in for her first goal of the season.
Regulation ended with the score still tied 1–1, so off to extra time the match went—there would be two 15-minute periods, after which, if the score was still tied, the match would go to penalty kicks. At this point in the match it was clear that Chicago had run out of steam. In the first period of extra time, Chicago had only 0.05 expected goals while San Diego had close to 0.8 expected goals. Expectedly, in the 110th minute (20th minute of stoppage time) San Diego’s Alex Morgan found netting after a missed clearance on a corner kept the ball around the box.
With the win, San Diego will now face Portland in Providence Park next Sunday at 5 pm ET on CBS Sports Network. Including the Challenge Cup, this will be the fifth time the two teams meet this year. In the regular season, Portland barely hung onto a 2–2 tie when the two met in June, and then in late August San Diego beat Portland 2–0 in Providence Park.
Although San Diego’s legs may need a little extra rest after the 120 minutes played this past weekend, Portland will not have played for over three weeks due to the international break, their last match being the unfortunate tie against Gotham. Last year when Portland had the bye and was hosting the semifinals, Chicago came to town and won 2–0 against the Thorns. It should be a great matchup come Sunday.
OL hopes to break the curse
So far, no NWSL team has won both the regular season NWSL Shield and the NWSL Championship. Portland was the most recent victim of the curse, winning the Shield in 2021 and then losing in the semifinals. The Reign will be hosting the Kansas City Current on Sunday. This will be the first time the two teams will face off in a playoff match which isn’t the NWSL Finals. In fact, the Reign won the NWSL Shield in both 2014 and 2015 and then lost to Kansas City in both Finals.
The Current had a thriller this past weekend, as in the 10th minute of stoppage most people watching the match assumed that the game against Houston would be ending in a draw and heading to extra time. Instead, Kansas City’s Kate Del Fava chose a phenomenal time for her first NWSL goal and put the ball in the netting to take the lead. The Current’s win would not have been possible without the exceptional play of AD Franch in goal. With both Franch and the Reign’s Phallon Tullis-Joyce on the shortlist for goalkeeper of the year, it will be quite the goalkeeper showdown this weekend.
The last time these two faced off was in mid-July while the internationals were still away, and the Current walked away with a 1–0 win in Kansas City. The first matchup of the year was back in late-May when OL was able to walk away from the mid-week matchup against the Current 1–0. The Reign will need their offense to continue finishing as well as they have been lately, and for their defense to stay focused for the full 90.