Regular-season finish: 9-5-8, 32 points, 29 goals, 24 goals conceded (4th place)
Where they play: Seattle, Washington (Lumen Field)
Formerly known as: Seattle Reign. The “OL” stands for Olympique Lyonnais, their sibling club in France.
Coach: Laura Harvey. The 43-year-old Englishwoman was a prodigy who took over at Arsenal in 2010, then came to Seattle in a fantastic hire by the Reign. She has spent some time with US national teams and the Utah Royals, but she returned to the Reign in 2021.
Players who were in the World Cup: Angelina (Brazil), Jordyn Huitema (Canada), Quinn (Canada), Alana Cook (USA), Sofia Huerta (USA), Rose Lavelle (USA), Megan Rapinoe (USA), Emily Sonnett (USA)
Players in the NWSL Best XI (first and second teams): None
Players in Guardian’s Top 100 of 2022: Lavelle (33), Rapinoe (70), Jess Fishlock (81)
Top transfer values according to SoccerDonna.de (in Euros): Lavelle 225k, Cook 150k, Bethany Balcer 100k, Huerta 90k, Sonnett 80k, Quinn 70k, Huitema 70k, Angelina 60k, Fishlock 60k
Top scorers: Balcer 6, Huitema 5
Most assists: Rapinoe 5
Goalkeeper: Claudia Dickey replaced Phallon Tullis-Joyce when Manchester United made OL Reign’s starting keeper their backup. Dickey played the last six regular-season games and allowed five goals against 21 saves. She faced no shots on goal against a startlingly punchless Angel City team in the first round of the playoffs, then stopped all four shots in the semifinal win over San Diego.
All stats below are limited to players who have had significant playing time
Most passes completed per 90 minutes: Cook 48.3, Sam Hiatt 46.8, Huerta 43.4
Most shot-creating actions per 90 minutes: Rapinoe 5.29, Lavelle 4.84, Huerta 3.15
Most tackles plus interceptions per 90 minutes: Phoebe McClernon 5.00, Lauren Barnes 4.30, Emily Sonnett 3.82
In general: In a team loaded with big-name players, the hype will still center around Rapinoe, who’s playing her final game. She had a dreadful time at the World Cup, but she’s still a game-changer. She completed only 56.5% of her passes in the regular season, but she has been a risk-reward player for a long time now. She’s not there to be consistent or to be a defensive presence. She’s there for those moments of magic that she still might be able to conjure. The way the defense has been playing, with Alana Cook and Lauren Barnes in the center, one moment may be all it takes.
When healthy, Lavelle has been one of the world’s best playmakers for several years now. US teammate Huerta can key the attack from her right back position.
Coach Laura Harvey has waited a long time to get another opportunity at this elusive prize. She led the Reign to the Shield (regular-season best record) in 2014 and 2015, then lost in the final each of those years. Harvey and the Reign won their third Shield last year but didn’t reach the final.
Regular-season finish: 8-7-7, 31 points, 25 goals, 24 goals conceded (6th place)
Where they play: Harrison, New Jersey (Red Bull Arena)
Formerly known as: Sky Blue FC
Coach: Juan Carlos Amoros has been a big hit in his first season, winning NWSL Coach of the Year honors. He was on the staff at Tottenham through the 2010s, then made a brief stop at Real Betis before taking over as interim coach in Houston last year. The 39-year-old coach from Madrid, hired in November, joined mastermind technical director Yael Averbuch West in a makeover of the roster and an expansion of the technical staff that includes a data specialist.
Players who were in the World Cup: Bruninha (Brazil), Sinead Farrelly (Ireland), Ifeoma Onumonu (Nigeria), Esther Gonzalez (Spain), Kristie Mewis (USA), Kelley O’Hara (USA), Lynn Williams (USA)
Players in the NWSL Best XI (first and second team): Ali Krieger (first), Lynn Williams (first), Jenna Nighswonger (second)
Players in The Guardian’s Top 100 of 2022: Gonzalez (90)
Top transfer values according to SoccerDonna.de (in Euros): Gonzalez 210k, Maitane Lopez 130k, Williams 125k, Midge Purce 120k, Mewis 70k
Top scorers: Williams 7, Purce 4
Most assists: Williams, Purce, Delanie Sheehan 2 each
Goalkeeper: When Abby Smith was injured, Gotham turned to Mandy Haught, who started her career in New Jersey but went to Piteå in Sweden, where she was able to find the playing time that eluded her in the NWSL. She returned to Gotham before this season. Pressed into action in late August, she gave up eight goals in six regular-season games, then slammed the door with seven saves in two playoff games.
All stats below are limited to players who have had significant playing time
Most passes completed per 90 minutes: Lopez 45.6, Kristen Edmonds 43.0, O’Hara 42.3
Most shot-creating actions per 90 minutes: Purce 4.77, Farrelly 4.52, Mewis 4.35
Most tackles plus interceptions per 90 minutes: McCall Zerboni 4.63, Lopez 4.51, Farrelly 3.96
In general: Someone should make a movie about this team.
Last year, they were in last place with 13 points, six behind ninth-place Washington. In this year’s semifinals, they started seven players who weren’t with the team last year — including two midseason arrivals from Spain, Maitane Lopez and World Cup champion Esther Gonzalez.
One of the holdovers from last year is Ali Krieger, who is having one of the best years of her career as she heads off into retirement. The defensive cornerstone was named to the NWSL Best XI. She was also in the news recently for a high-profile divorce from former teammate Ashlyn Harris.
Amoros was named NWSL Coach of the Year despite a sixth-place finish. Jenna Nighswonger was named Rookie of the Year on top of her Best XI spot.
But the bench is full of fascinating stories and veterans who still have a lot to offer. Well-traveled striker Katie Stengel, another midseason arrival, scored the semifinal game-winner on an assist from national teamer Kristie Mewis, both of whom entered the game as subs.
Also on the bench are Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly, the two players who kicked off a massive reckoning on coaches’ behavior with their sexual misconduct allegations toward Paul Riley. Shim, who hadn’t played since 2019, is now a law student and the head of a US Soccer Participant Safety Taskforce on top of being a productive substitute in five appearances. Farrelly, who had been out of the sport for nearly a decade, made Ireland’s World Cup squad and appeared in 18 regular-season games.
Let’s look at the final standings of a few leagues around the world …
WSL 2022-23 (England): Chelsea won 19 of 22 games and finished with 58 points and a goal difference of +51. Manchester United wasn’t far back, with 18 wins and 56 points. At the other end of the table, five of the league’s 12 teams averaged less than a point per game, and Reading bowed out with three wins and 11 points.
Frauen-Bundesliga 2022-23 (Germany): Bayern Munich also won 19 of 22 games and finished with 59 points and a goal difference of +59, barely holding off Wolfsburg (19 wins, 57 points). Five of the 12 teams averaged less than a point per game, and Potsdam wrapped the season with two wins and eight points.
NWSL 2023: San Diego led the regular season by winning 11 of 22 games. That’s right. They won only half their games, eight fewer than the champions of England and Germany, and they finished atop the table. The gap between first place and seventh, the place no one wants to finish in a league that takes six teams to the playoffs, was six points. The game between first and last was 13. Every team averaged at least a point per game. Only two teams lost more than half their games.
So the fact that we ended up with the No. 4 seed (OL Reign) against No. 6 (Gotham FC) isn’t too much of a shock. Both teams nearly missed the playoffs, but so did two of the teams they beat to get to this stage.
And both semifinals were taut affairs that could easily have gone the other way. Both teams lost the xG (expected goals) battle 0.6 to 0.5 but won 1-0. Gotham advanced on a brilliant winner by Katie Stengel; the Reign advanced on a cross by Veronica Latsko that wound up in the net.
It all comes down to this …
Unlikely storylines. Coin-flip results. A wild season in the NWSL will wrap up in San Diego over the next few hours. Join us, won’t you?
Beau will be here shortly. In the meantime here’s Megan Swanick’s look at Megan Rapinoe’s legacy ahead of her final match today.