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Katie Stengel and Kristie Mewis combine for Gotham FC game-winner

Gotham FC forward Katie Stengel scored the lone goal in Sunday's NWSL semifinal win over the Portland Thorns. (Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports)

The Gotham FC bench came up big in extra time in Sunday’s NWSL semifinal win over the defending champion Portland Thorns.

In Gotham’s 1-0 victory at Portland’s Providence Park, the lone goal came off the foot of forward Katie Stengel, with an assist from midfielder Kristie Mewis.

Both Mewis and Stengel came on as substitutes, with Mewis replacing Esther González in the 80th minute and Stengel replacing Delanie Sheehan in the 100th minute. They provided a the difference in a rain-soaked, defensive battle.

In the 107th minute, Mewis directed a failed Thorns clearance to Stengel at the top of the box. Stengel nudged the ball to her left to set up her shot, then used her left foot to send it flying over several Thorns defenders and into the top left corner of the net.

The shot went against the usual advice of head coach Juan Carlos Amorós, who tells his players to keep the ball “on the floor,” Stengel said.

“So I thought: Let’s do the exact opposite,” she said. “And it worked out!”

Stengel joined Gotham on loan from Liverpool in July, a move which became a permanent transfer in September. The 31-year-old forward has signed with the New Jersey-based club through the 2025 NWSL season.

In eight appearances for Gotham in 2023, Stengel has three goals, including Sunday’s game-winner. Her first goal for the club this season, which came in her very first appearance, also came against Portland.

“When I was here even temporarily, it felt like a more of a home,” Stengel said. “It felt like everyone was a part of this team, family environment. … So I was sold early on, just with the team culture and professionalism on and off the field, and it was great to be part of — and even better that we get to go to the final now.”

Mewis played her first minutes for Gotham FC since playing in the 2023 World Cup with the U.S. women’s national team. The 32-year-old midfielder has been out with a lower leg injury, and she was listed as questionable on the availability report ahead of the semifinal.

“What we’ve shown, and what they’ve shown, is: This is a squad of 25, 26 players, where everyone is important and key at certain points of the season,” Amorós said.