NWSL Decision Day drama — Must-click women’s soccer links

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Oct. 16, 2023

It was Decision Day on Sunday in the National Women’s Soccer League, and it was a riot.

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Here are some highlights, because I know many of you were also watching the WNBA when it all started. And then there was Iowa’s Crossover Kinnick basketball game. An aside: WOMEN’S SPORTS Y’ALL.

The day started with eight teams vying for four playoff spots. It end with the playoff bracket set.

NWSL Decision Day recap

Shield Winners: The San Diego Wave’s 2-0 victory over Racing Louisville gave them the NWSL Shield with 37 points.

Your 2023 playoff teams: The aforementioned Wave, the Portland Thorns, the North Carolina Courage, OL Reign, Angel City and Gotham.

Golden Boot: Sophia Smith finishes with 11 goals, despite being injured for a chunk of the season.

Heading home: The Orlando Pride, the Washington Spirit, Racing Louisville, Houston Dash, the KC Current, Chicago Red Stars.

The bracket: Angel City and OL Reign will play in the quarterfinals on Oct. 20 at Lumen Field. The winner of that match will play the Wave in San Diego. On the other side, the Courage host Gotham on Oct. 22 with the winner heading to Portland to play the Thorns in the semis.

First Decision Day goal: Midge Purce scored in the sixth minute for Gotham against Kansas City.

Coach benched: Mike Bristol was acting Spirit head coach in place of Mark Parsons because of yellow card accumulation.

Second Decision Day goal: Yazmeen Ryan puts Gotham up 2-0 in the 15th minute.

First red card: Trinity Rodman was sent off for the Spirit in the 23rd minute after a tackle on North Carolina’s Denise O’Sullivan. A minute later, Tyler Lussi scored to give the Courage the lead.

Youngest: San Diego’s Jaedyn Shaw is the youngest player to score 10 goals in an NWSL season.

Bicycle City FC: Sydney Leroux had a stunning bicycle kick to put Angel City up 4-0 against the Portland Thorns, who went into the rout vying for the Shield.

Brace yourself: Megan Rapinoe scored two goals for the Reign in a 3-0 victory over Chicago, and the farewell tour will continue. And talk about a big game for the OGs, Jess Fishlock also scored.

A bit of history thanks to Opta Sports: Rapinoe is the fourth player in NWSL history with 50 goals and 25 assists in the regular season and the only one to do it on a one team.

Another goodbye: Cheyna Matthews played her final NWSL match on Sunday for the Red Stars. She was honored for her career before the game.

Orlando edged out: The Pride took care of business with a 1-0 victory over Houston Dash. They would have made the playoffs, but Angel City’s 5-1 win over the Thorns overcame the goal-difference margin.

Speaking: “It’s just means the world. I mean, honestly, we came into this game just acting like, if we do our job and get a little luck then we’ve got this. And I feel like we dominated from start to finish. It was really a complete game for this team and I’m really proud of this team.” — Alex Morgan, San Diego Wave FC

Must-click women’s soccer links

Nice story here from Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times on Savannah McCaskill

The Equalizer’s excellent story about the approach Boston is taking with its expansion team

Jenna Tonelli’s story in All For XI on the lessons Ali Krieger has passed on

Jeff Kassouf writes about the NWSL’s refined tactics for ESPN

Evan Davis for The Equalizer on the NWSL season from a data perspective

Emma Hruby for Just Women’s Sports on Christen Press’ take on the NWSL’s TV deals

Also for JWS, Claire Watkins takes a look at what went wrong for KC after the Lynn Williams trade

The Athletic’s recap of Carli Lloyd’s Kickin’ It interview for the CBS Golazo Network

The USWNT is heading to Florida and Texas in December for a pair of games against China

Ali Krieger farewell address

Here’s some of what Ali Krieger said after her final regular season NWSL game. One aside, she did allude to what a tough week she’s had personally. If you haven’t heard, she and Ashlyn Harris are divorcing. You’ve got to hand it to Krieger, she handled yesterday’s post-game press conference with grace.

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Question: Ali, first of all, talk about making the playoffs again. And then your performance today and the ceremony.

Ali: Honestly, it’s been so overwhelming, in the most positive way, all the love and the support has been just — I’m honestly speechless because you don’t realize how much you’ve impacted all of these people the years that I’ve played, and so it’s so rewarding to see all the positive feedback and just the love that I’ve received, just from me playing the sport that I love and the human being that I’ve tried to be all these years, so that’s so rewarding.

And then the performance tonight I’m so happy and proud of us. It’s never been about just me, it’s always about the team, because I always want to be part of something bigger than myself. And that’s why I play this team sport. And so I’m so happy to be back in the playoffs because last year we missed it. And so, you know, unfortunately we didn’t get the win. But now we are so ready and focused on North Carolina and to get to the next round is something to be really proud of. So I’m very happy about that.

My individual performance, I just wanted to give everything that I had, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my last. So I might as well go out there and kick some butt and hopefully encourage my team to do the same. And I think that’s what happened. And so any time you make a play, or you defend well or anybody makes a positive play in the game that kind of encourages everyone else and motivates everyone else to do the same. That’s exactly what I wanted to do. And just to lead the team to success. And you know, this year has been so much better than the years before. And so I’m really proud of the group and I’m happy to move on to the next round.

Question: What happened in those moments when you were huddled around the phone looking to see if you made it?

Ali: Honestly, playing this sport, it’s like nothing else really matters unless you win and you move on. That’s all I cared about at the time and I was so excited, I was just like, so nervous. It was like a minute and 30 seconds left, and it came down to like goal differential, I guess. This is such a funny game, and any team can win on any day. At the beginning of the season, like I said before, every game matters. So you have to get points… And so it’s really, really important that you focus on that throughout the entire year. And so whenever you tie or lose, you get so upset, because you know, at the end of the year, it’s really gonna matter. It came down to that and fortunately, we had enough points to move on and I’m so thrilled for the group and yeah, that once I knew that, then I could be happy to celebrate and think of myself for like a couple of seconds after that.

Question: About Decision Day in general, all the games at the same time?

Ali: [joked about how a lot of people couldn’t come to her celebration party] It keeps it exciting, right? I keeps it really exciting and teams don’t have to think of other games and you can’t start to play different, maybe. So everyone’s in it. Everyone’s motivated to want to win and that’s exactly what you need to keep alive in this league.

Question: What was it like emotionally?

Ali: I’ve cried a lot this past couple months for various things happening and it’s been really hard to come to the end and you know, really soak it all in. I’m so focused on the team and winning. I try to take moments away to really think about my career and think about what I put into it. Because whatever you put into it is what you get out of it. And so me getting all of these lifelong friendships out of is what I’m most proud. I look at all my friends and family here and all my teammates who have carried me along the way and it’s just such a special moment, because I wouldn’t be here without any of them. Truly, because you think of like the deepest, darkest moments of my career, and they helped me get out of that. And and then you think of the highest, most exciting and happy moments in my career, and they’re always standing there too. So I really cherish and nurture those relationships. And over the years, it’s just been so inspiring to me to continue to play the sport that I love and have their support and an unconditional love because it wouldn’t have kept me going this long. And mentally I wouldn’t have been in it, and physically emotionally.

So it’s really incredible to see all of the love and support here. And then the fans. I mean, this is like a dream come true to have everyone just write such nice things about me that I don’t necessarily hear that often and how much impact I’ve had. I held it together, but it comes in in waves, I guess. Especially feelings in general. But I wanted to just stay strong and express my love and care for everyone that has shown me that over the years.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by Annie Peterson