The Washington Spirit return home to Audi Field for their final match of the 2022 season, hosting playoff-hopefuls Houston Dash. After back-to-back losses away, the Spirit will look to finish their season strong before facing the challenge of rebuilding in the off-season.
Here’s Annie Elliott and André Carlisle to bring you a few things to consider ahead of tonight’s match.
Things to watch
Season Finale Rematch
After last week’s match, Andi Sullivan spoke about the challenge of finding motivation when your team has been eliminated and the opponent is still on the hunt. Tonight, the Spirit have the opportunity to look to the past for inspiration and the start of a potential rivalry. Thanks to a quirk in scheduling, this is the second year in a row that Washington and Houston have faced off at Audi Field for the season finale.
In last year’s regular season finale, Houston needed to win to make the playoffs. It was a restrictor-tight match until the 76th minute, when Washington robbed them of that chance through a classic Sam Staab to Trinity Rodman connection.
Oddly, Houston called off the press and packed their backline with twenty minutes to go. It took the Spirit fewer than six to craft one of their signature goals. Sam Staab to @trinity_rodman ⚽️❗️— SpiritGIFs (@SpiritGIFs) November 1, 2021
Washington Spirit vs. Houston Dash | NWSL Regular Season | October 31, 2021 pic.twitter.com/iJh9qIwhoS
This year San Diego Wave helped the Dash avoid a similar scenario by drawing with North Carolina Courage on Friday night. However, the Dash still have an outside chance to host a playoff game, so there’s still something for them to play for, and something for Washington to deny. ✍️ -Annie Elliott
This will not only be the final game for the 2022 Washington Spirit, it will be interim head coach Albertin Montoya’s final game as well. Some time after the match Montoya will travel back to the west coast, leaving the Spirit looking for what would be the team’s third head coach in a season and a half (fourth if you count the match coached by Angela Salem before Montoya took over).
There will be plenty of time to discuss all that, for now Montoya is eager to go out with a bang. During the pre-match presser, Montoya stated multiple times that he is going to field his strongest XI and go for it, saying that though defensive coaches might not like to hear it, he’s expecting a goalfest.
As mentioned above, Houston as a team have a good reason to try to pile on the goals, goal differential could determine who’s hosting a playoff game and who’s on the road. On an individual level, Ebony Salmon rejoined the team after missing the last match in covid protocol and is one goal away from reaching double digits. The young English forward also enjoys scoring in bunches, and would relish the match turning into a festival of goals. From Washington’s standpoint, it’s a chance for them to remind fans what they’re capable of and end the season with a memorable performance that will make supporters eager for 2023. So let’s listen to what the coach says and do that goalfest. ✍️ -André Carlisle
Hurricane Ian is here
The sprawling Category 4 storm that slammed into Florida’s west coast midweek is now making its slow march up the eastern seaboard. Though the storm will continue to weaken now that it’s travelling across land and meeting much cooler air, it’s still expected to dump pools of water the majority of the weekend. In his pre-match presser, Montoya acknowledged that the game would likely be played in a downpour, but stated that neither the NWSL or Washington Spirit looked into playing the match earlier or postponing until later.
The good news is that the storm has quieted to very large, and very full, bands of rain, so we should avoid a lightning delay. However, there will likely be substantial gusts of wind for players to deal with. Bring your raincoats and galoshes, soccer in the rain can be even more unpredictable, and uncut silliness. See you there! ✍️ -André Carlisle
When and where
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: Saturday, 7:00pm ET
Referee: Samantha Martinez
Available streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.) & Twitch (int’l)
Who all gon’ be there
Spirit team news: OUT - Tori Huster (SEI- left lower leg), Kelley O’Hara (hip), Emily Sonnett (SEI- foot); QUESTIONABLE - None
Dash team news: OUT - Ella Dederick (right knee), Makamae Gomera-Stevens (left knee), Shea Groom(suspension- card accumulation), Kelcie Hedge (SEI- right knee), Annika Schmidt (SEI- right knee); QUESTIONABLE - None