There are constants in life: Death, taxes, and – in the world of the NWSL – OL Reign having San Diego Wave FC's number. Since San Diego entered the league in 2022, OL Reign have not lost a match against them in all competitions. With the big stage of the NWSL Playoff Semifinal, a spot in the NWSL Championship on the line, that definitely would be the time for 2023 NWSL Shield winners San Diego to break the streak.
But just like death and taxes, the constant of OL Reign beating San Diego Wave FC remained on Sunday night as a Veronica Latsko goal in the 47th minute and some lock down, gritty defense punched OL Reign's ticket to the NWSL Championship.
OL Reign will meet Gotham FC, who defeated Portland Thorns FC at Portland, in San Diego for the league's ultimate prize next Saturday.
WHAT WORKED: HIGH PRESS & AGGRESSION IN THE FIRST HALF
The headline of the first half was OL Reign's aggression in trying to find the opening goal. A high press from Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, and Jordyn Huitema allowed for midfielders Jess Fishlock and Emily Sonnett to push up and create runs for the trio. While they didn't find the back of the net, the aggression meant San Diego's impact players Alex Morgan and Jaedyn Shaw had almost no touches on the ball. There was a two-corner kick sequence for San Diego in the 12th minute and then a free kick opportunity in stoppage time in which the Wave tried to get really cute and gimmicky and it did nothing, but OL Reign's high press really established the tone and showed they were the team still playing with momentum despite the international break, compared to San Diego needing a minute to get settled in.
WHAT WORKED: PLAYOFF RONNIE
Forward Veronica Latsko was the hero in the quarterfinal victory against Angel City FC and she kept it going tonight in claiming the opening goal in the 47th minute. She joins Debinha and Crystal Dunn as players in league history to score in back to back NWSL Playoff games. Shross, soccer's version of the Spider Y 2 Banana play, whatever you want to call it, a goal is a goal and as head coach Laura Harvey likes to say, "Goals change games," and Latsko's goal did exactly that.
"It was meant to be a cross," Latsko said after the match.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK: NOTHING
It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to work. It may be a trope and cliché, but when it comes to win or go home playoff games, you just have to be better than your opponent.
OL Reign did exactly that and they're playing for the NWSL Championship.
Nothing to complain about with that.
"It seems poetic."
Now that the NWSL Championship is set, the biggest headline will be one final match for Megan Rapinoe and Gotham's Ali Krieger, both of whom are retiring at the end of the NWSL season. In looking ahead to meeting Gotham FC on Saturday night, midfielder Rose Lavelle talked about that storyline as part of praising their next formidable foe.
"The battle of the two people retiring, it seems poetic that the championship game is ending with Krieger and Pinoe's last game, so I think it will be really fun. We're gonna enjoy this moment, but get ready and get prepared for the next game."
Wouldn't you believe it, OL Reign have one more match in them!
OL Reign will be staying in sunny southern California, with a return visit to Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego to face Gotham FC for the ultimate prize, the NWSL Championship.
Under the bright lights of a primetime broadcast on CBS, the game will kick off at 5 PM PT on Saturday November 11. A 30-minute pregame show will precede it starting at 4:30 PM.