December 4, 2022

Semifinal results, how to watch, championship info

It looked like Sunday’s NWSL semifinal between the Portland Thorns and San Diego Wave was…

It looked like Sunday’s NWSL semifinal between the Portland Thorns and San Diego Wave was headed to extra time.

Enter Crystal Dunn.

In the 93rd minute, Dunn scored a beauty of a goal, her first of the season (video below). The 30-year-old gave birth to son Marcel in May and made her official return to NWSL competition last month.

2022 NWSL Playoffs: Semifinal schedule, how to watch, results

“It’s really hard for me to process that, five months ago, I gave birth,” Dunn said, noting that she contemplated spending the full 2022 season on maternity leave.

“There was part of me that thought, maybe I just take the rest of this year off, maybe I hit reset and start fresh in 2023. But for me, I always wanted to end this year the best way that I could and that was working extremely hard to get back onto the pitch.”

When told that Dunn gave birth just 156 days ago, Thorns head coach Rhian Wilkinson joked, “I have food in my fridge older than that.”

While Wilkinson praised Dunn’s quick return to the pitch as “incredible,” she added, “I don’t also want other mothers in the league to now think they’ve got to do what Crystal Dunn did.”

With the 2-1 win, the Thorns clinched a spot in next Saturday’s NWSL Championship game in Washington, DC. They’ll face the winner of Sunday’s other semifinal (OL Reign vs. Kansas City Current).

San Diego got going first on Sunday. In the eighth minute, Alex Morgan found Taylor Kornieck to put San Diego up 1-0 (video below).

Just 12 minutes later, the Thorns made it up with an incredible goal from Rocky Rodríguez (video below).

“I was mad,” Rodríguez said of going down 1-0 early. “We are on our home field, it’s a semifinal, and it wasn’t coming through yet… that’s why scoring that goal felt really nice.”

A crowd of 22,035 was on hand at Providence Park in Portland — the second largest attendance count in NWSL playoff history — and behind only last week’s record of 26,215 set by San Diego.

Thorns players asked fans to show up following the release of the Yates report, which included damning evidence that Portland’s front office failed to take action after former coach Paul Riley was accused of harassment and sexual coercion.

“Seeing our supporters packing the stadium let’s (sic) us know that you are bearing this heavy burden WITH us,” Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby posted on Twitter ahead of Sunday’s semifinal. “You can view that showing up on game day is an act of solidarity with the women on the field who are time and time again punished for the actions of others.”

“(Portland) has been a pioneer for women’s soccer in so many ways, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to fight to do better or that we’re going to let any of this slide. We need to criticize her perpetually,” midfielder Sam Coffey told On Her Turf, referencing a James Baldwin quote.

Some fans showed up with a message for current Thorns/Timbers owner Merritt Paulson: “Sell the clubs.”

Following the Yates report release, Paulson stepped stepped down as CEO of both organizations. But fan groups and some players — as well as all three of Oregon’s gubernatorial candidates — have called for Paulson to sell the teams, too.

San Diego Wave FC v Portland Thorns - Semifinal: 2022 NWSL Championship
PORTLAND, OREGON – A Portland Thorns fan holds up a sign reading “SELL THE CLUBS” during the NWSL semifinal between the Thorns and San Diego Wave at Providence Park. (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)

With Casey Stoney (San Diego) and Wilkinson (Portland) leading their respective teams, Sunday’s semifinal marked the first time in NWSL history that two female head coaches went head-to-head in a playoff game.

“I didn’t know that,” Wilkinson said of the stat.

“I’ve really been a big fan of Casey’s and I think she’s done a wonderful job… I hope she’s here to stay for a long time.”

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC