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Gotham FC Defeats OL Reign 2-1 to Win First NWSL Championship
Underdog Story: Gotham FC finished last place in the NWSL in 2022, but made a remarkable turnaround in 2023, clinching the final playoff spot and winning their first playoff match in club history. They then defeated the 2nd seed and returning champion Portland Thorns in the semifinals to advance to their first NWSL Championship.
Last Game for Legendary USWNT Players: The match was also the final game for two legendary USWNT players: Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe. Krieger, who was making her 180th appearance in the NWSL, started the match and played the entire 95 plus minutes. Rapinoe, who had been dealing with injuries all season, started the match but had to leave the game just a few minutes later due to a non-contact injury. Presumed to be a torn Achilles.
Set Piece Prove Key: Gotham FC's 2nd and game clinching goal came off of a corner kick. Gotham had yet to score off a corner kick all season. When games are extremely tight, set piece opportunities can often be the difference. Midge Purce got her second assist of the game when Esther got loose of her defender and headed home a poster perfect goal.
Both teams started the match cautious. As nobody wants to make an early mistake on the biggest stage. Gotham's strategy of having Midge Purce pinned to the sideline giving maximum width pays off as she creates an all-time finals moment. Megs the first defender, Hops over a sliding challenge with the ball stuck to her feet, cuts past the final defender to the end line, and finds Lynn Williams for a clean finish. OL Reign, without superstar Rapine had to putt the entire weight of the game on USWNT player Rose Lavelle who looked poised to do just that as she timed her run perfectly past Gotham FC's high line and beat keeper Mandy Haught near post. Gotham retakes the lead on Esther's header. Goes into half up 2-1.
The second half was a more even affair, with both teams having chances to score. Mandy Haught made a tremendous 1v1 save to keep the lead. However, in the dying seconds of the match, Mandy Haught handles a ball outside the box to avoid an onrushing Elise Bennet. Forcing the ref to give her a red card. Gotham out of subs resorted to putting defensive midfielder Nealy Martin in goal for the second time this season. Rose Lavelle takes a free kick from top the box but the wall holds. Neither team was able to find the back of the net, and Gotham FC held on for a 2-1 victory to win their first NWSL Championship.
Midge Purce was named the NWSL Championship MVP after providing two assists in Gotham FC's 2-1 victory. Purce was a key player for Gotham FC all season long, scoring four goals and providing four assists in 15 appearances.
Gotham FC's victory in the 2023 NWSL Championship is a remarkable story of resilience and determination. After finishing last place in 2022, the team made a complete turnaround in 2023 to win their first championship in club history. The victory is also a fitting tribute to Ali Krieger, one of the greatest players in USWNT and NWSL history. Gotham FC's consistency, ability to stick to a gameplan, and wanting to assist captain Ali Krieger go out on top fueled this victory.