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Rapinoe plays on! OL Reign win, advance to NWSL semifinals

Oct 21, 2023, 1:33 AM | Updated: 1:53 am

Image: OL Reign's Veronica Latsko, center, celebrates scoring a goal with Megan Rapinoe, right, and...

OL Reign's Veronica Latsko, center, celebrates scoring a goal with Megan Rapinoe, right, and other teammates late in the second half against Angel City FC at Lumen Field in Seattle on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. (Photo: Steph Chambers, Getty Images)

(Photo: Steph Chambers, Getty Images)

Veronica Latsko scored in the 87th minute to give OL Reign a home 1-0 victory over Angel City FC on Friday night in the opening round of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) playoffs. The win means Megan Rapinoe’s retirement will have to wait at least one more match.

The Reign will head to Southern California to take on the No. 1 seeded San Diego Wave FC in the semifinals on Sunday, Nov. 5. It’s the fifth consecutive season the OL Reign has made the semifinal round, the team noted in its match report. (The NWSL canceled the end of its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

According to the team’s recap, “Phoebe McClernon received the ball in a wide position before serving a cross into the middle of the box. Latsko made a perfectly time run to meet the ball and head it into the back of the net.”

Thanks to Latsko’s goal in the 87th minute, OL Reign has now scored a league-best nine goals in the final 15 minutes of play during the 2023 season, the team reports.

McClernon became the 13th different player to register an assist between the regular season and playoffs in 2023, which is the second most in the league.

The first half of the match in Seattle was a defensive battle, as the two teams combined for just five shots — the fewest in any half of a postseason match in NWSL history.

The Reign took control in the second half. Latsko had a shot ping off the post, and Megan Rapinoe — playing in her final home game after 11 seasons with the Reign — had a hard shot saved in the 53rd minute. She also had chances in the 47th and 69th minutes.

NWSL record crowd: Rapinoe honored by OL Reign in front of 34,130 fans

Angel City was held to just one shot in the second half.

“It was difficult. I mean, obviously two really well organized teams, two teams in form, couldn’t really break each other down. A few chances on either side,” Rapinoe said, according to The Associated Press. “But I felt like once the second half started, we started to gain that momentum. It was just a matter of time — took a little bit longer than we would have liked, but eventually got it in the end.”

The game also marked the return of Rose Lavelle, a member of the 2019 USWNT team that won the 2019 World Cup, in the 64th minute. She had been out with a knee injury since Sept. 3. Just minutes before Latsko’s goal, Lavelle forced Angel City goalkeeper Angelina Anderson to push her shot from distance out for a corner kick.

How OL Reign got to the NWSL playoffs

On the last day of the NWSL’s regular season on Oct. 15, Rapinoe scored two goals in three minutes at the start of the second half as OL Reign defeated the Chicago Red Stars on the road 3-0 to clinch their playoff spot.

Rapinoe’s not done: OL Reign earn NWSL playoff spot, home match

As the club noted it in its match recap, Rapinoe began the scoring in the 47th minute, with the help of Quinn. The Canadian midfielder found Rapinoe near the top of the 18-yard box. Rapinoe cut inside before finding the far post to give OL Reign the lead.

Rapinoe wasn’t done after one goal, though. She found the back of the net once again just three minutes later. Her 50th-minute goal was assisted by Jess Fishlock who fed Rapinoe the ball near the top of the box once again, setting her up for a far post repeat, the club reported.

Fishlock added a 59th-minute goal for the Reign, who played to a scoreless draw in the first half against Chicago before pulling away from the league’s last-place team in the second half.

OL Reign finished fourth in the NWSL standings with a record of 9-8-5 for 32 points, one point ahead of Angel City FC.

That one-point difference allowed OL Reign to host Friday night’s quarterfinal match at Lumen Field.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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