Both LGBTQ soccer legends are into the semifinals of the NWSL playoffs and the dream of seeing them go head to head for a Championship crown remains alive.
There were jubilant scenes at Lumen Field Friday night after Veronica Latsko headed home in the 87th minute to give OL Reign a 1-0 win over Angel City.
Rapinoe lifted Latsko into the air in celebration and the Reign held on in front of over 12,000 fans to reach the last four for a fifth consecutive season.
THIS ANGLE OF THE GAME-WINNING GOAL pic.twitter.com/mw3Pv7PiwT— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) October 21, 2023
Standing in their way this time will be San Diego Wave. Their goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan — who like Rapinoe was among the record number of out LGBTQ athletes competing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and August — kept a joint league-high nine clean sheets in the regular season.
However, the Reign did beat Casey Stoney’s side home and away in their two league meetings, which will give hope to Laura Harvey and her players when they visit the Snapdragon Stadium on the evening of Nov. 5.
Earlier that same Sunday, in Oregon, Ali Krieger’s NJ/NY Gotham FC will go up against Portland Thorns in the other semi.
Having only just squeezed into the top six of the standings to make the playoffs, Gotham were the underdogs when they took on North Carolina Courage in their quarterfinal at the weekend.
But Krieger again proved resolute in central defence to help shut out the hosts, and Delanie Sheehan and Yazmeen Ryan delivered a goal each at the end of the first and second halves of the match to give Gotham a 2-0 win.
The Thorns, who have the league’s best attacker in their ranks in the shape of Sophia Smith (11 goals, five assists), won 1-0 at home to Gotham in the penultimate round of regular-season fixtures earlier this month.
It’ll be a stern test for Krieger and co but she continues to write a gripping final chapter to her career, amid an immensely challenging time off-field following the breakup of her marriage to Ashlyn Harris.
Krieger’s brother Kyle posted on X last week about his gratitude to all those in soccer who have been paying tributes to his sister. He wrote: “Thank you for taking care of Ali — Honestly, the love and support for her has always been so comforting to see from fans.
“She deserves it all. The most kind, loyal and loving person I know. Glad you all see it too.”
Hilariously, OnlyFans model and LGBTQ influencer Kyle — who is recovering from spinal surgery — admitted Sunday that he has Ali blocked on X for “personal reasons” but is hoping to see her in person at the semi.
I have Ali blocked on here bc only fans stuff, but I wanna fly to Portland and surprise if I can get cleared to fly. This is so major!— Kyle Krieger (@kylekrieger) October 23, 2023
The NWSL Championship Game is scheduled for Nov. 11 in San Diego.
Meanwhile, the San Diego Loyal era concluded Sunday as the team was knocked out of the USL Championship playoffs in heartbreaking fashion at the Conference Quarterfinal stage.
With the club folding, it was literally ‘do or die’ time at Torero Stadium and although a hat-trick from the hosts’ Ronaldo Damus took the tie to extra-time, it was visitors Phoenix Rising who emerged 4-3 victors with a last-minute goal.
Loyal midfielder Collin Martin – the last remaining out gay athlete in US men’s pro sports – played the full match. In each of his last three seasons in San Diego, the team reached the playoffs but were unable to get past the first round of games.
Martin came out publicly in June 2018 while with Minnesota United in MLS and has been an outstanding advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in soccer. He will turn 29 next month and was ranked in the top 10 of players across the whole USL Championship for pass distribution in 2023.
Outsports wishes him well and looks forward to seeing where his career will take him next.