Impetus’ Blaise Ogutu brings the background to this weekend’s all-important games in the final round of the NWSL’s regular season (30/9/22).
Above: North Carolina Courage’s Debinha celebrates after scoring against Gotham FC. Photo: @TheNCCourage/Twitter.
Four teams have secured their place in the play-off rounds in the NWSL. Four more teams are in the hunt for the remaining two spots.
Four is also the magic number when it comes to the number of teams with a chance to win the Shield on the final day.
Let’s look at what this weekend looks like in this crazy end to the NWSL regular season.
San Diego Wave v North Carolina Courage
After leading the table for the most part of the season, San Diego find themselves in 4th place. They head into the final weekend hoping that the results of all the teams above them go in Wave’s favour in order to clinch the title. They secured a playoff spot last weekend with a 2-2 draw to Orlando Pride.
They however face a resurgent Courage side that is seeking a playoff spot. For them, a win sees them make the cut and effectively erase their poor form at the beginning of the season.
NJ/NY Gotham v Portland Thorns
Gotham FC have nothing to play for in the final game but their result potentially holds weight in the race for the shield as they welcome the Portland Thorns to New Jersey.
The Thorns became the first team to secure a place in the post-season when they ran out 3-0 victors against Racing Louisville on 22nd September. The two-time champions have a chance to add to their Shield tally with a win over Gotham which will see them retain the trophy they held aloft last season.
Washington Spirit v Houston Dash
The Washington Spirit have had a season to forget. Following their Championship win last season and an appearance at the Challenge Cup final this year, the team has struggled to get points on the board. This season they fail to feature in the post-season games.
With nothing to lose, they have the ability to deny Houston Dash a chance at the playoff table. Dash, for the whole season, have been battling top teams for the crown but recent inconsistent results have them still looking to secure a post-season appearance on the final day.
Racing Louisville v Kansas City Current
The Kansas City Current have had a meteoric rise to the top this season. At one point in the season, they were languishing at the foot of the table. That was before going on a 12-game unbeaten streak which saw them perch on top of the standings for the first time in their two-year history.
They have clinched the playoff spot and still have a shot at the Shield when they host Racing Louisville who are another team with a season to forget. They have recently picked up two wins in three games but it was too little too late to salvage a poor season for head coach Kim Bjorkegren.
OL Reign v Orlando Pride
The reverse fixture was a Megan Rapinoe show as she assisted and scored the winner in the dying minutes of a 2-1 comeback win for the OL Reign. It was part of Rapinoe’s late season antics which has pushed the Seattle-based team to second on the table with a chance at winning the Shield for the first time since 2015.
Orlando Pride have had a turbulent season with departures and off-field scandals haunting the team at the start of the season. Interim coach Seb Hines however found a way to steer the ship from rocky waters and compete for a while for the playoff spots. That was not to be as they lost a seven-game unbeaten streak and have gone five games without a win.
Chicago Red Stars v Angel City FC
The game with possibly the highest stake will coincidentally be the last game this weekend. Chicago sit in seventh, a point behind North Carolina who occupy the last playoff spot. Angel City are a point behind Chicago and a win for them plus a loss for North Carolina will see them clinch a playoff berth in their inaugural season.
Chicago fans have felt hard done by the injuries the team has suffered throughout the season but Chris Petrucelli and his team have ensured they stay within the playoff spots for the entire campaign. Angel City have also had their own injury woes but all that will be forgotten if they manage to get a victory away from home.
A season that has gripped NWSL fans the entire season boils down to this one weekend and with the playoffs ahead, there is still plenty more to come.