With all the focus coming into this game on the ends of both Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe’s careers, it’s not shocking to think that all the other big time players on the field tonight were an afterthought.
When Rapinoe went down early in the game, thus playing the last four minutes of an illustrious career, the spotlight turned to the likes of Lynn Williams, Rose Lavelle and Midge Purce. While both Williams and Lavelle got on the scoresheet, and Lavelle in particular produced a fantastic performance, it was Purce who ultimately decided who the victor of this game would be.
In the first half, Midge Purce was a wrecking ball down the right hand side of Gotham’s attack. OL Reign had no answer for it as time and time again, Purce got the ball and bypassed defenders with ease. With her opponents still reeling from losing a stalwart like Rapinoe so early on, Purce took the game by the scruff of its neck.
The game truly turned after 20 minutes when Purce, going on another dazzling run, found Lynn Williams inside the box and Williams finished from close range.
Rose Lavelle, who on another day, would be the one celebrating a NWSL Championship win and a MVP trophy, got OL Reign back on level terms with a great finish.
Not looking to be outdone, Purce was once again at the center of all good things for Gotham. As the clock wound down towards half-time, her set piece ability showed up as she found Esther González during a corner and the Spanish World Cup winner towered over everyone to score.
Throughout the game, Lavelle proved to be the one player Gotham couldn’t cope with. She glided past defenders, picked out beautiful passes (one which Veronica Latsko should’ve scored from and another that led to Mandy Haught being sent off) and completely bossed the midfield. If her teammates had matched her quality in the final, they would be lifting the trophies after 90 minutes and not Gotham.
Instead, it was Gotham and Purce who took control of the game and clung on right at the end to win it all.
In the second half, Purce was asked to close down passing channels and defend more than ever as OL Reign looked for an equalizer. Purce was everywhere in that second half, doubling up on Latsko and then Elyse Bennett as the second half wore on, while also maintaining an outlet if needed for Gotham. It wasn’t glorious work for a creative player like Purce but she, and Williams, have shown an aptitude to do the ‘dirty work’ for their team in order to win.
Purce left everything on the pitch in the second half as her team saw out their first ever NWSL Championship title and she was rightly named MVP when all was said and done. It was a fitting end for a player who has battled injuries to come back and spur her team to the highest of highs in the NWSL.