From worst to first! One year after finishing last in the league, NJ/NY Gotham FC completed its remarkable turnaround by winning the 2023 NWSL Championship with a thrilling 2-1 victory over OL Reign at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego. U.S. Women’s National Team forward Lynn Williams and Spanish international Esther González scored for Gotham and Midge Purce, who assisted both goals for the East Coast club, was named Championship Game MVP. Rose Lavelle found the back of the net for OL Reign, which finished runner-up for the third time in three trips to the NWSL final.
This is the first NWSL Championship for Gotham and the first title of any sort for the franchise since winning the WPS Championship in 2009. Gotham, which entered the postseason as the six seed and won all three playoff matches away from home, becomes the sixth different club to win an NWSL Championship, joining Portland Thorns FC, the North Carolina Courage, Washington Spirit and now-defunct clubs FC Kansas City and the Western New York Flash.
Played in front of an NWSL Championship Game record crowd of 25,011 fans, the highly anticipated matchup began on a sour note as OL Reign forward and USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe was forced to leave the match in the sixth minute due to a serious injury, a cruel ending to one of the most iconic and celebrated careers in world soccer history.
With action back underway, NJ/NY got out on the attack early and Williams, playing in her fifth NWSL final, put her team ahead in the 24th minute as she finished from close range after a perfectly weighted cutback across the face of goal after a dynamic dribbling run from Purce on which she beat three defenders one-on-one. The goal was Williams’ first playoff goal since scoring in the 2016 NWSL Championship for the Western New York Flash and she becomes the first player in NWSL history to play in and win four NWSL Championships, also winning back-to-back titles with the North Carolina Courage in 2018 and 2019.
WATCH: WILLIAMS OPENS SCORING FOR GOTHAM
While Gotham grabbed the early lead, the Reign quickly responded with an equalizer from Lavelle in the 29th minute. Showing off her remarkable speed and control on the ball, Lavelle broke in behind the Gotham defense and calmly unleashed a left-footed blast to draw the teams’ level.
WATCH: LAVELLE EQUALIZES FOR REIGN
Deep into first-half stoppage time, Gotham seized the momentum once again and scored what proved to be the game-winning goal as 2023 World Cup champion Esther headed in excellent service from Purce off a corner kick. Purce who was limited by injuries this year, had two assists in 12 appearances during the regular season.
WATCH: PURCE SETS UP GAME-WINNER FOR GOTHAM
While scoreless in the second half, the final 45 minutes was not without drama, including a late red card to Gotham goalkeeper Mandy Haught for punching the ball away outside the penalty area. However, the Reign were unable to come up with an equalizer and NJ/NY Gotham FC held on to claim its first ever NWSL Championship. The victory was especially sweet for defender Ali Krieger as it marked her final professional match and first NWSL Championship for team captain and former USWNT player. Krieger walks away from the game following a remarkable career that included two World Cup championships, over 100 caps for the USWNT, a UEFA Women’s Champions League and now NWSL title. Kelley O’Hara, Kristie Mewis and 2019 World Cup champion Allie Long all played a part in Gotham’s title run this season while, along with Lavelle and Rapinoe, Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta and Emily Sonnett made massive contributions in getting the Reign to their first title game appearance since 2015.
With the 2023 club season now complete in the United States, attention turns towards Europe, where U.S. internationals Lindsey Horan and Mia Fishel are helping their respective clubs to unbeaten starts. Horan played 90 minutes as Olympique Lyon dispatched Montpellier with a dominating 5-0 victory on Friday evening in France’s Division 1 Féminine. Fishel came on as a second-half substitute for Chelsea FC, which remained atop the FA Women’s Super League standings with a 3-0 victory over Everton on Sunday morning.
Both Lyon and Chelsea will now turn their attention to the UEFA Women’s Championship League, which kicks off group play midweek.
Broadcast information on upcoming matches featuring U.S. Women’s National Team players can be found below. All times listed are ET.
|Tuesday, November 14|
|UWCL – Group Stage: Slavia Praha vs. Olympique Lyon||3:00 p.m.||DAZN|
|Wednesday, November 15|
|UWCL – Group Stage: Real Madrid FC vs. Chelsea FC||3:00 p.m.||DAZN|
|Friday, November 17|
|D1 Féminine: Olympique Lyon vs. Dijon||3:00 p.m.||DAZN|
|Saturday, November 18|
|FA WSL: Chelsea FC vs. Liverpool||8:30 a.m.||FA Player|