In the hunt for one of only four playoff spots, the win helped Washington (8-7-3, 27 points) hang on to third place, after Portland (7-6-5, 26 points) and Chicago (7-6-5, 26 points) tied last night, as well. Seattle and FC Kansas City sit atop the standings, and barring a complete collapse by Kansas City, Washington, Portland, Chicago and Western NY will fight it out for the remaining two playoff positions.
After bolstering the roster significantly mid-season with an influx of talent primarily from the Frauen Bundesliga in Germany, Washington is starting to jell as a (new) team. There is still room for improvement, but there have been moments of greatness.
Midfielder Kerstin Garefrekes is truly world class, and was integral to the win over the Flash. Additionally, the first half against Houston included some of the best passing in the offense end the team has managed all season.
Forward Jodie Taylor, coming off a frustrating match in Rochester last weekend, beat Marissa Diggs at midfield in the 19th minute and hit a streaking Lisa De Vanna, who maneuvered around defender Stephanie Ochs and chipped the ball over goalkeeper McLeod for the 1-0 lead and her first goal for the Spirit.
Houston threatened a few times after De Vanna's goal, but was denied by Washington goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who is unbeaten in four appearances since returning from US Women's National Team duty in June. Harris put on quite a show of athleticism against the Dash, and could nearly have been counted as a fifth defender at times.
After the strong first half (eight shots, five shots on goal), to say the Spirit offense stagnated in the second half would be an understatement, only managing two shots with none on goal.
Meanwhile, Houston ratcheted up the heat on an already humid night in Houston. But the Spirit defense held tight until an old foe struck again - the set piece. Marissa Diggs beat Yael Averbuch to get a head on an Ochs corner kick and knot the match at 1-1.
Washington hung on for deal life to walk away with a much-needed away point, and now most recover quickly for Sunday's road match with Sky Blue FC.
But it's hard not to imagine Washington will regret leaving two points behind on this one. Needless to say, three points are critical Sunday, leading into a Wednesday collision with Portland that will have significant playoff repercussions.
Injury notes: Forward Lisa De Vanna took a knock to the hamstring in the first half, but stayed in the game. She did leave at the half, however....Defender Ali Krieger suffered what appeared to be a sprain in early in the second half, but kept playing....Midfielder/Defender Tori Huster was listed as unavailable for the match due to a groin strain.
Stay tuned for my thoughts on Washington's playoff picture. For now, here are the league-provided guidelines for the elimination number formula and the all-important tiebreakers.
Elimination Number Formula
The Elimination Number for a team to confirm their exclusion from the playoffs is determined by subtracting that team's maximum number of possible points from the current number of points of the fourth-place team, then adding one.
Then the elimination number for the Boston Breakers would be 32 - 26 + 1 = 8
TO BREAK A TIE IN THE STANDINGS
If two or more teams are tied on points at the end of the regular season, the tie will be broken through the following steps: