Recapping the 2015 NWSL Championship in Portland with incredible photography from our friends at GRLA Football
On Wednesday, NPR’s resident curmudgeonly crust of a human, Frank Deford, delivered his latest stale take on the state of women’s sports. Most appallingly, Deford managed to discuss the state of women’s football without even realizing that 1) the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) exists and 2) was holding its championship match the next day. It was both lazy journalism and a reminder that in spite of the huge buzz that accompanied the Women’s World Cup this summer, the club version of the game must continue to fight for the respect it so readily deserves.
It was in this context — the lamentable reality that every NWSL season stands as a referendum on the existence of the league itself — that F.C. Kansas City and Seattle Reign F.C. took the field to contest the third NWSL Championship.
It was a rematch from last year’s final that saw Kansas City down Seattle 2-1. For Seattle, the regular season champions, anything less than a victory would be a disappointment.
As cup finals go, it was a typical match – physical and a bit sloppy – with both sides creating and conceding chances in equal measure. In the second half, Seattle star Megan Rapinoe lashed a shot off the upright that would have given her side the lead. Kansas City broke the deadlock in the 78th minute with an Amy Rodriguez header that managed to fool the stonewall that we like to call Hope Solo.
Seattle scrambled for an equalizer but were unable to unlock the Kansas City defense, anchored by U.S. star Becky Sauerbrunn, and Kansas City were crowned back-to-back NWSL Champions. It was a fitting valediction for retiring star Lauren Holiday whose decision to leave the game at the age of 27 underscores the growth that is needed in the women’s game.
With the match came even better news for the future of the NWSL: a new four-year deal with Nike that will ensure the league’s survival, making it the longest lasting women’s top-flight league in U.S. history.
As fans filed out of Providence Park and filtered into downtown Portland’s bars, the most striking thing about the scene had to be its normalcy. The crowd could have been any crowd, the game could have been any game, the sport could have been any sport. It was a reality that a veteran sportswriter like Deford could not even fathom into being. And it was one that if he had been paying attention to, he might not have missed.