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Lynn Williams: Gotham want to win NWSL Championship for Ali Krieger

Gotham FC defender Ali Krieger celebrates with teammates and fans after her final regular-season NWSL match. (Jonathan Jones/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC players have one goal in the 2023 NWSL playoffs: Win a title for Ali Krieger.

A two-time World Cup champion, Krieger is seeking her first NWSL title in her final season. That goal has motivated her teammates all season long as they have gone from finishing last in the league in 2022 to a playoff berth in 2023.

The team “squeaked” into the playoffs with the sixth and final spot, Gotham FC forward Lynn Williams said on the latest episode of Just Women’s Sports‘ “Snacks” podcast, with their berth contingent on the Orlando Pride’s result. But ultimately, the Pride couldn’t overcome the two-goal differential needed to surpass Gotham FC in the standings.

“It was a pretty special moment for that,” Williams said of the team learning they were into the postseason. “We’re throwing Krieger in the air, the fans are still in the stands so they’re celebrating too. It was a very cool moment to be a part of.”

Williams was not shy about how “crazy” the end of the regular season was. But while players are “exhausted,” she said, they’re turning to their captain Krieger for motivation as they enter the playoffs.

“This part of the season is so crazy. Like, you’re exhausted, you’ve been going basically since January,” she said. “But it’s also a moment where you just have to get over it and start improving and increasing the intensity. You’re mentally and physically drained, there are a lot of players who have knocks and nicks and all these things.

“I think we are using Krieger’s career as our motivation. Obviously people have other motivations too, but she’s never won an NWSL Championship. We want to let her retire on such a high note. We just want to win so bad. Like, why else play if you don’t want to win?”

As Krieger prepares for the playoffs and for retirement, she is balancing turmoil in her personal life, as her wife Ashlyn Harris filed for divorce in September. Yet Krieger is receiving support from family, friends and fellow players, as she shared in a tribute to all of them on Instagram.

Her teammates are sending that love back to her.

“Ali Krieger is a beast. She is the standard, she’s everything, a legend, and she showed that through and through tonight,” Gotham FC midfielder Yazmeen Ryan said. “Very much, by far the player of the match, player of the season for us. Our captain. We couldn’t have done it without her.”