San Diego will play host to the long-awaited 2023 NWSL Championship at Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday, November 11, in a matchup between OL Reign and Gotham FC in what will be the final matchup between two great USWNT legends as they retire at the end of the season.
Those two are Megan Rapinoe of OL Reign and Ali Krieger of Gotham FC, who have both won multiple World Cups with the USWNT, and both announced this would be their last season of their professional soccer careers. It will end at Snapdragon Stadium, which is regarded by many players as one of the great atmospheres for women’s soccer, considering the large crowds that San Diego Wave FC have generated in their short history.
The NWSL hosted their media day on Thursday, Nov. 9, where EVT spoke with players and coaches from both teams, who all spoke highly of the atmosphere they have witnessed in San Diego, which led the league in average attendance for the 2023 season.
“The atmosphere at the weekend was amazing, so I’m hoping those guys can all come back out again and whichever team they’re cheering for to just create an amazing atmosphere and a celebration of women’s soccer because that’s what it’s all about,” Head coach of OL Reign, Laura Harvey said.
Harvey also spoke more about her experience at Snapdragon Stadium, saying that she hoped it would be better than last week, which featured an SDSU Aztec Football game the night before.
“This week, we’re hoping it’s a little bit better,” Harvey said. ”I think it’s a great stadium. It was super loud, and I was actually saying to people if it had a roof on it, it would be unbearable probably; you wouldn’t be able to hear yourself.”
OL Reign forward Veronica Latsko, who scored the game-winning goal after an unlikely cross found the back of the net, spoke about her experience in San Diego, saying it was “an incredible environment, their fans were so interactive and so loud it was probably one of the better stadium atmospheres that I’ve played in.”
For Saturday, Latsko said she expects Seattle fans to “show out” and make the trip down I-5 to fill out Snapdragon Stadium, making it sound loud
like her home stadium, Lumen Field.
On the other side of the pitch, they face Gotham FC, who turned around a last-place finish last season to a spot in the NWSL Finals only one year later with very little major roster turnover thanks to the work of the clubs new head coach, Juan Carlos Amoros whose great work won him the 2023 NWSL Coach of the Year award.
Amoros changed the team’s style along with bringing a little bit of the Spanish style of play, according to two of his Spanish players, Esther Gonzalez and Maitane Lopez.
“We believe with our work, with our identity and our style while maintaining our concentration, we can win, but this will be a great opponent,” Amoros said.
Only one Gotham player has ever scored in San Diego, Katie Stengel, who knocked in a stoppage-time goal in a 2-1 defeat against the Wave. Stengel said the goal didn’t mean as much because of the losing circumstances, but was looking forward to coming back to the fun atmosphere that San Diego provides and performing for her retiring teammate.
“(Krieger’s) one of those big-time players who not just shows up in big games and makes headlines for all these medals and things she’s won, but she shows up every single day to training,” Stengel said. “I think that says a lot about the person she is. She doesn’t just show up to play in games. She shows up for all her club teammates, not just national team, but club teammates, and trains every single day and is the hardest working player every single day and to be able to do that for so many different years is incredible and inspiring and I think we owe it to her to try to match that on Saturday.”
Abraham Zepeda is a bilingual Chula Vista Native covering the Tijuana Xolos for EVT. He spent the summer of 2022 covering San Diego Loyal SC and San Diego Wave FC. He is also currently a student at the University of Oregon pursuing a degree in journalism.