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NWSL Championship: Gotham win first title behind World Cup stars

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC’s Midge Purce juked one OL Reign defender by the sideline and another by the goal box. She charged into the box with the ball on her foot and with her team outnumbered by the cage.

As Purce looked up to pass, Lynn Williams sprinted into the box just in front of the net. Williams tapped the ball from Purce into the net to open the scoring in the NWSL Championship, becoming the second player in NWSL history to contribute a goal in three different championship matches.

The early scoring didn’t stop there, as Gotham carried a 2-1 lead over OL Reign into halftime at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego. And despite a frantic end to the match, that would stand as the final score, giving the Gotham its first title in franchise history.

Four minutes after Williams’ opening tally, OL Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle broke through a line of white-clad defenders and booted a breakaway goal for the equalizer.

Purce, though, did not let her team go to the locker room tied. In the second minute of first-half stoppage time, the Gotham FC forward loosed a corner kick high into the goal box. The ball curved toward the front of the net in the air and Esther González jumped to meet it. The 2023 World Cup winner headed the ball into the netting to give New York the advantage at the half.

World Cup stars came up big for their respective squads in the NWSL Championship — at least one national team player cashed in on each goal, with Williams and Lavelle from the U.S. women’s national team and González from Spain.

And while Purce missed out on the World Cup with a quad tear, the USWNT forward put her name in the NWSL history books with her two first-half assists. She is just the second player to record multiple assists in an NWSL final, joining Lauren Holiday, who did so for 2014 champion FC Kansas City. She won the NWSL Championship MVP award for her performance.

The buzz leading into the game centered around the retiring stars, Megan Rapinoe for OL Reign and Ali Krieger for Gotham FC, but the next wave of international stars stepped into the spotlight during the NWSL Championship.