Christen Press believes that the NWSL is one of the most entertaining leagues in the world.

On the latest episode of The RE-CAP Show, Press discusses the action in the NWSL Championship with co-host Tobin Heath. Gotham FC held off OL Reign 2-1 on Nov. 11 to win their first championship and send Ali Krieger off into retirement on a high note.

“I asked for this match to showcase the NWSL at its best,” said Press, a two-time World Cup champion with the U.S. women’s national team. “And say what you will about the NWSL, the style of play, transition, yada yada — I think it’s the most entertaining league in the world.

“It’s open, it’s energetic, and there’s tons of goals, and I think we got the NWSL at its best during this final match.”

This comes as debate has gone on about which is better: European leagues or the NWSL. Gotham FC forward and World Cup champion Esther González of Spain praised the NWSL for its level of play.

“One of the biggest differences with the Spanish League, which is a great league, is that here all the games, absolutely all of them, are like a Champions League game, at the highest level,” she said after the championship game. “In Spain, there are some games that you can win four or five to zero, that your physical wear and tear is normal, that you have everything under control.

“Here, every game is like playing against Barça, which is the best team in the Spanish League: Your level has to be the maximum, your physical demand is the maximum, and that happens weekend after weekend.”

But others, like USWNT star Lindsey Horan, have opted for Europe and the Champions League. USWNT teammates Mia Fishel and Catarina Macario are also overseas, playing for Chelsea, whose coach Emma Hayes was just announced as the next manager of the USWNT.

And Horan would like to see more USWNT players head overseas to get acquainted with different styles of play.

“I’ve heard of [American] players wanting to [move to Europe],” Horan told Pro Soccer Wire. “Obviously, it’s comfortable in the NWSL and I won’t take anything away from the league, but for me, [playing abroad] has always been a growing point in my career. When I went to PSG, it was massive for me and then coming back to Lyon was even a bigger jump. I get to play with some of the best international players in the world.”

“It’s not a knock on the NWSL, but you’re just not going and playing in the Champions League,” she continued. “That’s something that I missed out on when I was at Portland because it’s just insane.”

Gotham FC apologized to fans on Thursday after not holding a celebration for their NWSL Championship win.

Traditionally, championship-winning teams will hold a rally or a parade in their local market in the days following the title game. Gotham FC, instead, is hosting a “trophy tour,” which included a team visit to the Empire State Building and a ceremonial ringing of the NASDAQ opening bell on Thursday.

Media, however, was not informed until around 1 a.m. the day of Thursday’s festivities.

“It’s sad,” Lynn Williams told The Messenger. “I wish we could have celebrated with our fans who have been there all year.”

“We would have loved to celebrate the fans. Fans are a huge part of why we’re here,” Yazmeen Ryan added. “It’s not ideal that it won’t be until next season. But hopefully they stick with us and know that we’re gonna have many more of these to come.”

Gotham’s supporters group, Cloud 9, expressed their disappointment in the delayed celebration, writing on X that they “deserve to celebrate NOW, as a collective fanbase, with the players that brought home that trophy.”

Gotham veteran McCall Zerboni responded to fans on X with an assurance that their complaints are being heard by the players.

In response to the public pressure, Gotham issued an apologetic statement on Thursday night.

“We extend our sincere apology and recognize you deserved the chance to celebrate our champion athletes who brought the trophy home,” the club wrote. “We pledge to use the off-season to organize celebrations that befit a championship club and match the enthusiasm of the best fans in the world.”

It isn’t the first time a team has delayed its championship celebration. The Washington Spirit didn’t hold a rally to celebrate their 2021 championship win until April 2022, despite having the support of the Washington, D.C. mayor to schedule a parade sooner.

“We don’t even know if it’s gonna be the same team,” Williams told The Messenger, with the NWSL’s free-agency signing period set to begin Monday. “So that’s a bit upsetting. But I do think if we’re not going to do it right, then we have time to plan and go forward.”

Megan Rapinoe underwent surgery to repair the torn Achilles tendon in her right leg, she and OL Reign announced Wednesday.

The longtime U.S. women’s national team and OL Reign forward sustained the injury early in the 2023 NWSL Championship, which also was the final match of her storied career.

“I wasn’t overly emotional about it,” Rapinoe said after OL Reign’s 2-1 loss to Gotham FC. “I mean, f—ing yeeted my Achilles in the sixth minute in my last game ever in the literal championship game.”

Her former USWNT teammate Christen Press, though, couldn’t hold back her own emotions while watching the game at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, as Tobin Heath shared on the latest episode of their podcast, “The RE-CAP Show.”

“I was looking around trying to see if the stadium was processing what was happening,” Heath said. “And I looked over you and you were crying. And it was such a complicated moment of feelings.”

“We just were not ready for the end to come right at the beginning,” Press said. “And when I texted Pinoe after the game, I told her: Three tears hit the floor. That’s what happened, three giant, real tears hit the floor underneath my shoes.

“And you know what I thought? I thought, those aren’t tears of pity. She’s too important. She’s had too big of a career. She’s had too much success and joy playing this sport for us to have pity. That would be a disservice to the legacy that she’s leaving.

“And the tears fell from my face with love and pride to be able to have shared the field and the locker room with someone who has had such a long-lasting impact and will continue to have that long-lasting impact.”

Rapinoe handled the injury with grace during the championship match, even as her teammates and opponents spoke of their devastation on her behalf. And that continued as she began her recovery.

“Surgery a success. Home, resting, being taken care of,” she wrote on Instagram, tagging her fiancée Sue Bird. “Thank you for all the love, well wishes and good vibes sent my way.”

Christen Press was as excited as the rest of the soccer community to watch Ali Krieger take home the 2023 NWSL Championship with Gotham FC.

On the latest episode of “The RE-CAP Show,” Press described herself as “on the edge of our seats” for the entirety of Saturday’s final. And one of the best parts of the match was getting to see how loved Krieger is. Press and Krieger played together on the 2015 and 2019 World Cup squads for the U.S. women’s national team.

“I think that it is warm and fuzzies to the max. This player, our friend, is so loved,” Press told co-host Tobin Heath. “She is adored by her teammates, by the teams that she plays on, by the entire community. … The Ali Krieger supporter group was massive and it was loud. We had Ali Krieger chants reverberating through the stadium the entire time, and that must be so cool to feel that in your final match.”

Part of what made it so satisfying to watch Krieger win the championship, Press said, is how Krieger has valued the NWSL from the very start of the league. While some treated it as a “stepping stone” for the national team, Krieger always has valued the NWSL on its own merit.

“I have never experienced someone who is able to put so much effort and energy and love into every single day of what she does,” Press continued. “She plays every single game like it’s the World Cup. She plays five-on-five in training like it’s a World Cup final.

“I’m like, aren’t you exhausted carrying this much for this long? I do not know how you do it. I do not understand how you could care that much all the freaking time.”

She also attributed part of Gotham’s energy and culture to what Krieger has established since joining the club last year.

“You’ve got a player that has done what she needs to do in her career,” she said. “And instead of being like, this is my victory tour, she says at the beginning of the season, ‘I want to win this trophy, I have not won this trophy.’ She frickin’ manifested that.”

Kelley O’Hara and Lynn Williams took their 2023 NWSL Championship medals to Bravo network Tuesday night as bartenders on “Watch What Happens Live.”

The late-night talk show, hosted by Andy Cohen, also featured guests Jordan Emanuel and Danielle Olivera, who have starred in other Bravo shows. While O’Hara and Williams stayed behind the on-set bar for the episode, they did get the chance to show off their championship hardware.

Their appearance continues what has been a run of title celebrations for Gotham FC, as Ali Krieger appeared on CBS Sports’ “We Need To Talk.” And immediately after the 2-1 win over OL Reign in the NWSL final, Kristie Mewis led the team in a championship celebration for the ages in the locker room at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego.

Ali Krieger might not be walking away from soccer completely.

The two-time World Cup champion ended her professional soccer career by winning the the 2023 NWSL Championship with Gotham FC. Now she’s plotting her next chapter.

Speaking on CBS Sports’ “We Need To Talk,” Krieger, 39, said that she might find herself back on the field someday, but on the sidelines. She has her U.S. Soccer B License, with the coaching course paid by the NWSL.

“We want to get more female coaches into the professional game and the college game,” Krieger said. “I’m open to [coaching]. I feel like I’m a little too nice. I wouldn’t be able to look at players and tell them why they’re not starting, all the difficult conversations I think I would struggle with at the beginning and maybe I would get better at it.

“But I can be very demanding and supportive, and I think that’s what a lot of players and teams need. Because you know how players can be so good and that’s why you can demand more from them. But also be super supportive, because they need to feel confident. They need to feel like they can just go and express themselves and really get the best out of them. And so I try to do both of those. But I could see myself being maybe an assistant or a specific defensive coach, because I love defending so much.”

Still, Krieger is “ready for anything” in retirement and is excited to move on to the next chapter of her life, especially considering that she’s going out as a champion. And Gotham players have been partying so hard, she said, that they already chipped the brand-new championship trophy.

“The world is my oyster now,” she said. “This has been such an incredible ride this year and then to end this weekend – I’m still processing it in real time. … This is something I’ve been trying to work towards for so long, 11 years that we’ve had this league I had yet to win and then it happened this weekend.”

While she could have played for a little while longer, Krieger is starting to feel it in her back a little bit, she said. And she wants to spend more time with her kids.

“Back-to-back champions might be kinda nice too but I think, honestly, this is such an amazing way for me to go out,” she said. “An incredible game, an incredible year that we had and I think I wanna end up on top.”

SAN DIEGO — After lifting the 2023 NWSL trophy on Saturday, no one registered more giddy surprise over their accomplishment than NJ/NY Gotham FC’s players. The club had just put the final stamp on their “worst to first” narrative, a term that retiring legend Ali Krieger said began almost as a joke before becoming the team’s reality.

“In preseason, we were like, ‘We have to go worst to first,’” she told the media after Gotham’s 2-1 win over OL Reign. “And we were kind of laughing at first, because we’re like, oh my god, we’re really going to do it.”

The NWSL playoffs are an American construct of modern soccer, infusing the chaos of knockout soccer into a system that historically rewards steady consistency over the excitement of a few moments of brilliance.

After finishing 2022 in the basement of the NWSL standings, Gotham proved to be stunningly resilient in the 2023 playoffs. They held clean sheets when they could, scored goals when they had to, and saved some of their best collective play for the game that mattered the most.

No one would accuse Gotham of crashing the party, but contending for an NWSL Championship used to be something of a perennial experience. Before the playoffs were expanded in 2021, Portland, Seattle, North Carolina and the Chicago Red Stars tended to duke it out in the postseason, sometimes flanked by the old FC Kansas City teams or North Carolina’s predecessors, the Western New York Flash.

More often than not, North Carolina/Western New York and Portland made it the farthest, swapping title wins from 2016-19. The winner of the playoffs didn’t always reflect the strongest regular season squad (the “Shield Curse” legend didn’t grow out of nowhere), but fans became used to familiar faces taking part in the trophy lift even as the league’s parity shined in other areas.

While teams from that era still loom large over the playoff picture, the suspended 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately proved to be the end of that dynasty era. It was followed by a season of turmoil due to investigations in widespread abuse, forcing front office turnover and, in some cases, club sales.

The 2021 season also launched the six-team playoff structure, giving quarterfinalists a chance to build true momentum through the postseason. The Washington Spirit felt like the first of a new class of champions in 2021, who came together at just the right time after an up-and-down regular season.

If the Spirit nudged the door open, then Gotham FC kicked it off its hinges with their 2023 championship win. The team colloquially known as “the Bats” is the first No. 6 seed to win an NWSL Championship.

“We squeaked into playoffs and made it all the way,” Championship MVP Midge Purce said after the game, summing up Gotham’s Cinderella story.

But now that the confetti has been swept up, and the free agency cycle is once again in full swing, two questions linger: Can Gotham replicate their success next year, and can the playbook for their turnaround be replicated by other teams?

Lynn Williams scored a goal in the final after Gotham traded for her in the offseason. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

To answer both questions, it’s necessary to look at how the Bats achieved one of the most impressive season comebacks in league history. That process started with the hiring of Juan Carlos Amorós, who communicated his style of play to the team’s leaders from Day 1 and received full-team buy-in in return.

Gotham general manager Yael Averbuch then oversaw an excellent 2023 draft week, during which the club traded for U.S. women’s national team forward Lynn Williams and 2022 NWSL champion Yazmeen Ryan, as well as selected future Rookie of the Year Jenna Nighswonger. The team also did well in free agency, signing 2021 NWSL champion Kelley O’Hara and 2022 champion Abby Smith.

With the additions of Williams, O’Hara, Ryan and Smith, Gotham suddenly had a lot of championship experience in their starting XI. The club didn’t sit idle during the midseason transfer window either, signing Spanish players Esther González and Maitane López, both of whom started in the 2023 title game. They also signed Katie Stengel, first on loan and then by permanent transfer. The forward came in off the bench in the semifinal to score a rocket and lead Gotham to their first championship game.

That much change in one year was warranted after the team’s 2022 results, but there was no guarantee of immediate success with that many new personalities in the locker room. Gotham’s players, however, found ways to connect quickly, relying on shared histories and a desire to win.

“I think the thing is, a lot of us have known each other for years,” Purce said during NWSL Championship week.

“I did U-17s with Ify [Onumonu] and Mandy [Freeman], I lived with Ify for a while. I’ve known Delaney [Sheehan] for a long time. Ali Krieger gave me my high school award. Allie Long was one of the first people to ever talk to me at national team camp,” she continued. “So I think there’s a lot of crossover through a lot of the age groups, and then we have a lot of veterans. I think we have a really strong leadership core that knows how to win, and I think that’s been really indispensable.”

González and Williams, proven winners, scored the two goals to earn Gotham the title, but it was Purce who facilitated the team’s biggest moments by notching both assists. For one brilliant 90-minute period, the team’s past and present formed an unbeatable force. Longtime Gotham backup keeper Amanda Haught once again stood strong against an onslaught from OL Reign, and Krieger played some of the best soccer of her life in the final matches of her career.

Other teams will have to be similarly aggressive and good judges of player character to replicate Gotham’s accomplishments. It’s not always easy to handpick the personalities that will be entering your locker room, or know how players with greater seniority will process sweeping changes.

The Bats got that mix exactly right this year, but as is the case in sports, they will be presented with similar decisions to make for 2024. Many players considered important leaders for the team, including goalkeeper Michelle Betos and midfielder McCall Zerboni, are closer to the ends of their careers than the beginning. They also have former starters now coming off the bench, like Onumonu, who might be searching for starting opportunities elsewhere.

The club will also be dealing with one of the best problems they could have — becoming a well-regarded destination. This year’s free agency period holds top talent, including three-time NWSL champions Crystal Dunn and Becky Sauerbrunn. If Gotham wants to replenish their roster with even more winning talent, they’ll have the opportunity.

But if Gotham followed in the footsteps of the 2021 Washington Spirit by catching fire at exactly the right time to launch themselves to unprecedented success, they’ll want to avoid coming back down. The Spirit have yet to return to the playoffs since their championship win, despite consistent investment in growing their front-office infrastructure.

Getting to the top is hard, but staying there is harder. Averbuch and Amorós will have to stay vigilant to keep their club from being remembered as a one-hit wonder.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Megan Rapinoe officially retired from professional soccer after her appearance in the NWSL Championship match on Nov. 11. Upon Rapinoe’s retirement, Alex Morgan shared her parting words for the American soccer icon.

Rapinoe and Morgan have been fixtures of the U.S. women’s national team together since 2010, when Morgan made her debut for the side. Thirteen years and two World Cup victories later, and the partnership is finally separating — at least on the pitch. 

Two days after Rapinoe’s final match, Morgan shared the emotional farewell speech she gave in tribute to her longtime teammate.

“P, you clearly mean so much to me and all of us,” Morgan said. “This team is in good hands, but it is in good hands, in large part, because of you and what you’ve done for this team.”

Rapinoe and Morgan are two key figures in a revolution for women’s soccer in the United States. Along with having historic soccer careers and great success on the field, both players advocated for equal pay for the U.S. women’s national team. Rapinoe, Morgan and the USWNT won their battle with U.S. Soccer in 2022 and earned a new contract for their team along with $22 million in backpay from the league. 

And Rapinoe has no plans to disappear from the world of soccer. Rapinoe and her fiancée Sue Bird began a production company together to which Rapinoe plans to dedicate more time. Rapinoe also mentioned a desire to continue to work in the OL Reign organization during the postgame press conference after the team’s 2-1 loss to Gotham FC in the NWSL Championship.

Rapinoe changed the landscape of women’s soccer in the U.S. with Morgan and other members of the national team by her side, and it doesn’t seem like she has plans of stopping in retirement. 

“Congratulations on the next chapter in life,” Morgan said. “And I hope you just ride off into the sunset because your work here is done.”

Esther González always dreamt of playing in the United States. Now, she’s not only made that dream come true, but she’s also a NWSL champion.

González signed with Gotham FC after winning the 2023 World Cup with Spain. And since then, the 30-year-old forward has helped the team to its first NWSL championship, scoring the title-winning goal on a header in Saturday’s final.

She predicted the goal to Spanish outlet AS ahead of the championship game.

“Yes always,” she said in Spanish when asked if she saw herself scoring in the final. “In my head, I only want to score goals, whatever the match, in training. Of course I see myself scoring in the final. I know I’m going to have a chance, I just have to make it.”

González has settled in well to the NWSL, becoming just the second player since 2015 to score a brace in one of her first two league appearances.

She also knows that she is in a league “where I can bring out my maximum potential,” and following the game she told Marta Griñan of AS that the level of competition in the NWSL is much higher than in La Liga.

“One of the biggest differences with the Spanish league, which is a great league, is that here (in the NWSL) all the games, absolutely all of them, are like a Champions League game at the highest level,” she said. “In Spain, there are some games that you can win four or five to zero, that your physical wear and tear is normal, that you have everything under control.

“Here every game is like playing against Barça, which is the best team in the Spanish League: Your level has to be the maximum, your physical demand is the maximum, and that happens weekend after weekend.”

Sue Bird is welcoming fiancée Megan Rapinoe into retirement with open arms.

Rapinoe played in her final professional soccer game in Saturday’s 2023 NWSL Championship. The OL Reign star exited after just six minutes with a suspected Achilles injury in the 1-0 loss to Gotham FC, and her teammates and opponents alike called the turn of events “devastating” for the soccer legend.

“I just feel so gutted for her. Honestly, I never thought that would ever happen,” fellow retiree and Gotham captain Ali Krieger said. “And I feel so sad because you know football is such a risk, right? And you never know if it’s going to be your last game, your last moment.

“And to happen to such an incredible player, in that moment … It just is so sad and I feel for her and I’m gonna be there every step of the way for her recovery. … And I never wanted that to happen because I wanted to celebrate with her at the end.”

Bird, who has been in a relationship with Rapinoe since 2017, retired from professional basketball last year as one of the greatest players in WNBA history. In a post on Instagram Stories, the Seattle Storm great welcomed Rapinoe into retirement.

“Cheer to you, baby! To an unbelievable career, to all you’ve accomplished, and to all the lives you’ve impacted along the way,” she wrote. “It’s not how you wanted it to end. It’s not how any of us wanted it to end, but the truth is a legacy like yours has no ending.

“Even though you’re saying goodbye to the game, you’ll be saying hello to a whole lot more and that legacy will just continue to grow. Congratulations and welcome to retirement!! I’ve been waiting for you.”