Washington Spirit dominated the game for the opening ten or so minutes before going down to a wicked curling strike from Marisa Viggiano. The Spirit fought back and Trinity Rodman eventually earned a penalty which was emphatically dispatched by Andi Sullivan. Unluckiness struck again as calamity in the box ended with Julia Roddar scoring an own goal, ending Washington’s hope of finishing the season with a result.
November 20th, 2021 was a big day for the Washington Spirit. They won their first NWSL Championship, truly living up to Washington D.C.’s nickname, “District of Champions,” and creating history for the franchise. However, since that game, that season, a lot has changed. It’s a well-known thing in sports that teams coming off a championship run rarely go back-to-back due to less time for recovery. After the high of an unprecedented championship run, this season the Spirit unfortunately displayed the season-long hangover that can occur after shocking the world.
With light rain showers, and 9,141 fans in attendance scattered around Audi Field singing karaoke and taking photos with life-size cutouts of players, the Spirit’s fan appreciation night and final game of the season started.
From the first whistle, you could feel the energy from the Spirit, they weren’t going down without a fight. Two minutes into the match, Rodman broke away and put a shot on goal that saved by Houston’s goalkeeper, Jane Cambell. Shortly after, with two quick passes, Hatch gets the ball at her feet and makes an attempt at the four minute mark, which was also saved by Cambell.
At the fourteenth minute Houston gets a goal against the run of play. Unlike previous matches, the offensive momentum didn’t shift from the Spirit as they continued to charge for the equalizer. With the crowd roaring every time Rodman touches the ball, she drew a foul in the box on Allysha Chapman in the 35th minute, giving the Spirit a chance to tie the game with a penalty. Sullivan stepped up and dispatched an emphatic penalty in the bottom corner. Campbell guessed right but couldn’t keep up with the pace of the shot and the first half ended 1-1.
The start of the second half almost felt like a completely different match. When the Spirit are tied or down in a match they tend to sit back and absorb a lot of pressure, and Houston threatened to punish them for not doing so. With shot after shot on goal — a few of those hitting the crossbar — the Dash were applying more pressure than they had in the first half. Eventually, after yet another shot off the crossbar by Houston, goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury and Julia Roddar were scrambling to locate the ball and keep it away from a Houston play but Roddar took an inadvertent touch that rolled the ball across the line for an own goal.
Houston was now up 2-1 in the 58th minute. The Spirit had fewer offensive chances in the second half, and after stoppage time, the whistles blew, and the 2021 NWSL Champions season ended.
- What To Hope For Next Season. Without knowing who the new head coach will be, all anyone can hope for is a healthy team. The Spirit need a break and time to get over this unsatisfying, yet simultaneously eventful season, and hopefully time away this off-season helps.
- A Championship in DC Without the Spirit. It’s bittersweet having the NWSL Championship in Washington D.C. later this fall, knowing the Washington Spirit won’t be there. With the Spirit having an interim coach, and their roster being riddled with injuries throughout the season, a lot factored into them not making the playoffs.
- A sadly fitting farewell to 2022. The match versus Houston was weird but also followed a similar track of unluckiness that had been present all season. Though the Spirit did well to not fall into the bad habits they picked up during the season, particularly when tied or ahead by a goal, the lack of cohesion in the face of playoff-ready teams was noticeable. In the end it was an unlucky touch that sent the losing goal across their own goaline to close an unlucky season.
NWSL Regular Season - Game # 22
Spirit - 1 (Sullivan [PEN] 36’)
Dash - 2 (Viggiano 14’, Roddar [OG] 58’)
Washington Spirit (433): Kingsbury; Roddar (Heilferty 65’), Staab, Brooks, Bailey; Feist (Baggett 72’), Sullivan(C), Sanchez; McKeown, Hatch, Rodman
Houston Dash (433): Cambell(C); Chapman (Alozie 45’), Prisock, Naughton, Dydasco; Gareis (Abam 82’), Scmidt, Viggiano; Prince (Visalli 88’), Salmon (Eddy 71’), Sánchez (Anderson 88’)
Spirit - Sullivan 47’, Staab 73’
Dash - Chapman 42’, Schmidt 77’, Prisock 84’