USWNT REWIND: Red Stars, Spirit Advance to NWSL Semifinals
The 2021 NWSL Playoffs kicked off on Sunday with a pair of tightly contested affairs as the Chicago Red Stars defeated NJ/NY Gotham FC, 1-0, and the Washington Spirit topped the North Carolina Courage in over time by the same score line.
Under the newly-instituted playoff format, the top six teams in the standings qualified for the playoffs with the top two finishers in the regular season – Portland and OL, respectively – receiving a bye to the semifinal round. The third and fourth seeds hosted their first-round matchups, which kicked off with fourth-seed Chicago hosting five-seed Gotham in Bridgeview, Illinois.
Having played to a scoreless draw in two of their three meetings during the regular season, the sides entered the locker room at halftime knotted at 0-0. However, Mallory Pugh put the hosts in front in the early stages of the second half, scoring a beautiful one-timed curler in the 61st minute. Pugh’s goal – which marked her first postseason goal in her first ever NWSL postseason appearance – proved to be the game-winner as Tierna Davidson and the rest of the Red Stars defensive corps held Gotham to two shots on goal on the day.
WATCH: Pugh Puts Chicago into NWSL Semifinals
Carli Lloyd, who played the final match of her illustrious international career on October 26, went the full 90 minutes for Gotham, in what marked her final match for club or for country. Margaret Purce also went the distance for Gotham in the defeat.
The second match of the day pitted the six-seed and 2019 NWSL Champions North Carolina Courage against the three-seed, Washington Spirit, who closed the regular season on a nine-game unbeaten run. Though scoreless through regulation, the match saw plenty of action on both ends as North Carolina goalkeeper Casey Murphy and Washington’s Aubrey Bledsoe tallied eight saves each during the opening 90 minutes.
WATCH: Murphy Stymies Spirit in Regulation
The teams remained deadlocked at nil-nil through the first 15-minute period of extra time until 2021 NWSL Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch came up with the game’s only goal in the 113th minute, burying the rebound after an initial strike by U.S. youth international Trinity Rodman.
Kelley O’Hara, Andi Sullivan and Emily Sonnett all played the full 120 minutes as the Spirit pitched their third consecutive clean sheet across all competitions. Lynn Williams went the distance and tallied a team-high five shots for North Carolina while Murphy closed the night with 13 saves, breaking the NWSL single-game postseason record of 11 which Murphy set in 2019 while playing for her former club, Seattle Reign.
The attention now turns to the semifinals which will be played on Sunday, November 14. The Spirit open the action in Tacoma, taking on second-overall seed OL Reign (3:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network) followed by the Red Stars squaring off against top-seeded and 2021 NWSL Shield winners Portland Thorns FC at 5:30 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network). The championship match will take place on November 20 at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky and will be broadcast nationally on CBS at 12 p.m. ET.
The UEFA Women’s Champions League returns this week with group play. Arsenal resumes Group C play on Wednesday, November 10 with a road tilt against Danish side HB Koge (12:45 p.m. ET on DAZN) while Olympique Lyonnais hosts German power Bayern Munich later that same afternoon (3 p.m. ET on DAZN).
Information on upcoming matches featuring U.S. Women’s National Team players can be found below. All times listed are ET.