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Around the Leagues: Washington the City of Champions in NWSL

By Emile Guzman, 11/23/21, 11:30AM PST

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Extra time thriller caps NWSL season while MLS Postseason gets underway

Postseason play in the U.S. continued over the weekend, delivering a number of thrilling contests for all fans to enjoy. The National Women’s Soccer League crowned its 2021 champion after a well-played match in Louisville required extra time, as two squads in USL play punched their tickets to the Championship Final. Plus, the MLS Cup Playoffs got underway to kick off what will surely be an intense few weeks of postseason action.

USL Championship

The Conference Finals delivered a pair of very tight contests on Saturday night.

In a battle between Eastern Conference heavyweights, Tampa Bay Rowdies took down Louisville City FC in a come from behind win in extra time. After a dismal first half for the Florida side saw them go down 2-0, Rowdies scratched and clawed for an 83rd minute score to pull them within one. Just as Louisville seemed destined to walk off with the upset, Tampa Bay netted an equalizer in the final seconds of stoppage time to force extra minutes- where they would score the eventual game-winner in the 102nd minute.

In the Western Conference, Orange County SC and San Antonio FC gave fans another thrilling matchup. After Orange County opened the scoring just before half time, San Antonio pulled even mid-way through the second half on a great header from Roderick Epps. Neither club would score again, even after 30 minutes of extra time, setting the stage for an Orange County victory after a penalty shootout.

National Women's Soccer League

Following not one, but two upset victories in the semifinal round of the NWSL Playoffs, Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars faced off in Louisville for the NWSL crown.

Red Stars were issued a tough blow early, losing captain Vanessa DiBernardo to injury in just the 12th minute. A back and forth first half would go their way just before the break, however, as Chicago would break the scoreless tie with a stoppage time goal from Rachel Hill. Washington shifted the momentum in their direction as the half progressed, and would eventually pull even on a penalty in the 67th minute.

The 1-1 score would keep through 90 minutes, sending the contest to extra time. After a pair of great chances were stopped by Chicago, Washington forward Kelley O’Hara headed in the eventual game-winner in the 97th minute, securing the D.C. club their first-ever NWSL title.

Major League Soccer- Round One

The 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs officially kicked off over the weekend, with eight clubs battling for spots in the Conference semifinal round.

Back east, NYCFC took down Atlanta United to secure a trip to New England, where they’ll battle Bruce Arena’s squad that’s taken just one loss since August. Philadelphia Union took a thrilling 1-0 victory over New York Red Bulls, claiming the win on a Jakob Glesnes banger from 25 yards out in the 123rd minute. They’ll take on the winner of Nashville and Orlando this coming Sunday.

In the west, Portland silenced Minnesota United 3-1 to move on to a meeting with Colorado Rapids. The contest marks the first MLS match to take place on Thanksgiving Day, which will kick off on FOX at 1:30 p.m. PT opposite NFL action on CBS. Colorado had the best of the two clubs’ regular season meetings, claiming four points as a part of their late-season surge for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Up north, Seattle will battle Real Salt Lake for a spot in the second round after their Decision Day results shook up the Western Conference Standings. The victor will take on Sporting KC, who took care of business against Vancouver Saturday behind two first half scores and some 60th minute insurance from Graham Zusi’s first goal of the season.