NWSL: National Women’s Soccer League Playoffs set

National Women’s Soccer League Playoffs are set after the NWSL’s 20 game season concluded on Sunday September 25.

The Portland Thorns were crowned NWSL champions as the club defeated Sky Blue FC 3-1 to cap off a season that saw them lose just three times. The Thorns win coupled with the Washington Spirits’ final day loss to the Chicago Red Stars allowed the Pacific Northwest club to usurp their capital rivals.

Early on the Thorns looked far from champions, however, as Sky Blue’s Tasha Kai scored in the sixth minute. For much of the first half, it looked like Portland may struggle to overcome the New Jersey side. However, Allie Long levelled things in the 41st minute. Tobin Heath picked up her NWSL record 10th assist on Long’s goal.

Just after halftime Portland found a second goal through midfielder Lindsey Horan, which completely broke Sky Blue’s spirits. Long added a third six minutes from time as Portland lifted their first NWSL Shield.

The Chicago Red Stars clinched a playoff spot with a 3-1 win against playoff bound Washington Spirit. Chicago had the crucial match wrapped up in the first half as Christen Press scored her eighth goal of the season in the sixth minute.

Cara Walls added a second 20 minutes later and Chicago were rolling toward the postseason. The Red Stars weren’t done, however. Sofia Huerta tallied her seventh of the NWSL season just after halftime as Chicago embarrassed the league’s top team going into the weekend.

Washington’s Crystal Dunn pulled one back for the Spirit just a minute after Huerta’s strike. However, the match was out of reach.

Washington have a chance to gain revenge against Chicago on Friday night in the NWSL’s first semifinal playoff match. The match will be played in Washington with the winner playing either Portland or the Western New York Flash in the final.

Speaking of the Flash, the ladies clinched their playoff spot by hammering the hapless Boston Breakers, 4-0. It took Western New York just two minutes to open the scoring as Jessica McDonald scored her 10th goal of the season.

Less than a half hour later, Lynn Williams tallied her 11th of 2016, making her the league’s joint golden boot winner this season.

Samantha Mewis would add a third just before halftime and Abby Dahlkemper scored from the penalty spot to give Western New York the victory.

The Flash clinched the fourth and final spot in the NWSL Playoffs and will travel to Portland to play the NWSL Shield winners on Saturday.

Despite Seattle Reigns’ 3-2 win over Houston Dash on the final day of the season, the team couldn’t overcome Western New York. With their destiny out of their hands, Seattle needed a Boston win against the Flash.

Based on the Breakers’ form this season that proved unlikely. Seattle still finished fifth in the NWSL and have a lot to build on in the off season.

FC Kansas City finished just behind the Reign following a late season surge that saw them defeat the Orlando Pride in what proved to be a rather meaningless match.

Kansas City took the spoils 2-1 and will now look to rebound after missing the playoffs in 2016.

The NWSL Playoffs kickoff on Friday night with the Washington Spirit hosting the Chicago Red Stars. Portland Thorns host Western New York Flash on Saturday afternoon.

The league final will be played on October 9.

Drew Farmer
I am a freelance journalist and author currently living in Manchester, England. Originally from the USA, I have written about sports and travel for years.I have written for Hopeless Football Romantic magazine, The Football Pink magazine, World Soccer Talk, Sports Collectors Daily, Forza Italian Football and many more. My debut book Soccer Travels was released in spring 2016, and details travelling to soccer matches around the globe. It can be purchased on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.