Friday, December 9 2022
OL Reign players and coaches celebrate on the field
OL Reign players and coaches celebrate on the field

The OL Reign won the 2022 NWSL Shield on Saturday with a 3-0 win against the Orlando Pride — and more than a little help from Gotham FC.

Heading into Saturday’s slate of games, it appeared likely that the Portland Thorns would walk away with the regular season title. The Thorns controlled their own destiny; all they had to do was beat Gotham, the last-ranked team in the league.

Instead, Gotham scored more goals on against the No. 1 team in the league than it had in its past eight games combined, coming back from a two-goal deficit to finish with a 3-3 draw.

Gotham goalie Michelle Betos said the team heard the NWSL was bringing the Shield trophy to Red Bull Arena — a rumor that turned out not to be true — but the impact was the same.

“We didn’t want that to be celebrated on our field,” Betos said.

“No one celebrates on our field, except for us,” echoed Ifeoma Onumonu.

“It’s definitely a painful one right now,” said Portland head coach Rhian Wilkinson. “Gotham came out to deliver a performance that they could put a full stop on a very challenging season. I thought it was really one of our weaker games all season, which is the frustration.”

Midge Purce had a particularly strong showing for Gotham just days after not being named to the latest USWNT roster.

“I think Midge Purce had a great game, and she caused a lot of problems,” Portland and USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn said.

After Portland squandered its opportunity to clinch the Shield, the OL Reign were on a mission.

“You can imagine the energy that was in the locker room before the start of the game, just knowing what was on the line,” said Megan Rapinoe. “Having everything in our hands is exactly how we wanted it.”

It was Rapinoe, in her 100th appearance, who put the Reign up 1-0 in the eighth minute. Jordyn Huitema and Bethany Balcer also notched tallies in the 3-0 win.

The win marks the OL Reign’s third NWSL Shield and first since 2015. Each OL Reign player will receive a $10,000 bonus after sponsor Carmax pledged to double the Shield prize money from the CBA minimum of $5,000.

The crowd of 10,746 at Lumen Field also broke the club’s largest standalone attendance record.

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

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