The playoff push is on in the National Women's Soccer League as teams continue to battle for playoff positioning in the final stretch of the 2021 regular season. Washington Spirit and NJ/NY Gotham FC have climbed back into playoff position after picking up wins during Saturday's fixtures, while other teams dropped in the standings.
Let's take a look at some of the Saturday night action around the league
Demonstrations continued as NWSL players continued to show support and solidarity with former players Sinead Farrely, Mana Shim, Kaiya McCullough and others who recently came forward with their stories of abuse sustained while playing for NWSL clubs. Orlando Pride hosted NJ/NY Gotham FC and participated in planned demonstrations. The in-game actions began during midweek matches on Wednesday.
The NWSL Players Association also reissued demands that were introduced during the midweek matches, but now have a deadline on them for the league. The eight-point list of demands have deadlines for Oct. 13.
The players union has asked the league for involvement in the Players Association's independent investigation into abusive conduct.
- Every coach, general manager, representative on the Board of Governors, and owner voluntarily submit to the Players Association's independent investigation into abusive conduct. They may notify executive director Meghann Burke of their agreement with this demand by the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.
- The scope of NWSL's investigation announced on Sunday evening, Oct. 4, 2021 be expanded to include an investigation of each of the 12 NWSL Clubs represented on the Board of Governors to determine whether any abuse, whether presently known or unknown, has occurred at any point in time.
- The scope of NWSL's investigation further be expanded to determine whether any league office staff, NWSL club, or person in a position of power within NWSL neglected to investigate concerns of abuse raised by any player or staff member at any point in time.
- NWSL adopt an immediate "Step Back Protocol" whereby any person in a position of power (e.g. owner, representative on the Board of Governors, general manager, or management supervisor) at the time that a club either hired or separated from employment a coach who was, is, or will be under investigation for abuse be suspended from any governance or oversight role within NWSL pending the conclusion of an independent investigation, effectively immediately. For any club that took swift action to protect players upon the discovery of facts that were not previously known to the club, the immediate disclosure to the Players Association of the circumstances and the policies or practices implemented to prevent the same from happening again may be grounds to restore that person to their position quickly, with the Players Association's agreement.
- NWSL immediately agree to disclose all investigative reports referenced in its statement of Oct. 3, 2021.
- NWSL immediately agree to disclose to the Players Association any and all findings, conclusions, and reports that are obtained pursuant to their statement of Oct. 3, 2021, including but not limited to the reopening of the 2015 Paul Riley investigation.
- NWSL agrees to cooperate with the Players Association's own independent investigation by written email to executive director Meghann Burke by the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.
- NWSL agrees that representatives of the Players Association have an opportunity to meet with potential commissioner candidates and have a meaningful opportunity to be heard in the selection of the next commissioner.
Playoff table shifts, Portland clinches
The Washington Spirit took control of they playoff journey with a massive 3-0 win over Racing Louisville FC on Saturday, as Ashley Hatch scored a brace and Trinity Rodman recorded two assists. The two players linked up in the opening 10 minutes to open up the scoring.
The victory boosted the team into playoff position, and they now sit in fourth place with 30 points. NJ/NY Gotham FC also got a big bump in their playoff push as they faced Orlando Pride on the road in Exploria Stadium. Gotham got out to an early lead thanks to French international Gaëtane Thiney in the third minute.
Thiney recorded brace for the team in a crucial win on the road, but Margaret Purce earned the game-winning goal after Orlando's late-game surge closed out the match 3-2. The victory for Gotham now has the team sitting in fifth place with 29 points.
With Saturday's results, the Portland Thorns have clinched a playoff berth for the 2021 season. It is their seventh playoff appearance, and fifth consecutive in the league's nine-year history. The Thorns are currently in first place with 38 points and are still in the hunt for the 2021 NWSL Shield, awarded to the team with the regular season's top record.
NWSL action continues Sunday as Kansas City NWSL host Portland Thorns FC, the Houston Dash meet North Carolina Courage, and OL Reign face the Chicago Red Stars.