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New to the Washington Spirit? Here’s a guide to the NWSL Championship

Let’s get you on the bandwagon before today’s NWSL final

Tony Quinn & ISI Photos

If you’ve been on this site a lot lately, you’ve heard a ton about the Washington Spirit’s quest to be champions of the National Women’s Soccer League. The NWSL final is later today against the Western New York Flash. Thinking about getting on the bandwagon? Here’s what you need to know:

When and where is tonight’s game?

The Spirit take on the Flash at 5 p.m. Eastern at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.

Why is it in Houston?

The NWSL uses a pre-determined site for the final.

Who are the U.S. national team players on each side?

One interesting thing about the matchup is that neither team has a ton of USWNT players. Crystal Dunn and Ali Krieger are the USWNT contingent from the Spirit and the Flash’s Sam Mewis was an alternate at the Olympics.

If there aren’t a bunch of national teamers, who should I watch?

Up top, veteran Jess McDonald and youngster Lynn Williams (this year’s NWSL MVP) form an athletic, dangerous duo that’s sure to give the Spirit trouble. Defensively, keep an eye out for Western New York’s Abby Dahlkemper, while Spirit midfielder and Silver Spring, Md. native Joanna Lohman is a force on both sides of the ball. The Spirit’s offense is ever-changing but look out forclever attackers Estefania Banini and Diana Matheson.

Are there any DC-area locals on the team?

Aside from Lohman and Krieger (the USWNT defender is from Dumfries, VA), starting midfielder Christine Nairn is from Annapolis and likely starting defender Whitney Church is from Ashburn.

How can I watch the game?

Fox Sports 1 and online at Fox Sports 2Go (free trial with promo code U17WNT)

How did the teams advance to the final?

The Spirit won 2-1 against the Chicago Red Stars in extra time at the Maryland Soccerplex. Washington scored and played well in the first half only to play poorly in the second half. Chicago scored late in the second half through Christen Press, who then nearly scored a stoppage time game-winner only to hit the crossbar while facing an empty net. Francisca Ordega then scored in extra time to advance the Spirit to their first-ever NWSL final.

The Flash needed extra time as well. The No. 4 seed upset the NWSL Shield winners (i.e. the regular season champs) Portland Thorns in front of over 20,000 Thorns fans. The Flash scored two goals in the first half only to then watch Portland come back to level the score. Williams scored two goals in extra time, which proved critical as Portland pulled a goal back. The 4-3 WNY win advanced the Flash to their first final since their loss in 2013. As if there wasn’t enough drama on the field, the Flash head coach got ejected in the first half.

So the Flash’s coach is suspended?

Yep. Paul Riley won’t be allowed to communicate with the team during the game or at halftime. Assistant coach Scott Vallow will execute his game plan.

Who is favored to win?

Probably the Spirit. If Washington can play their style and manage to keep possession, move the ball well and keep the game pretty calm, they’ll win. But if the Flash can turn this final into a physical foot race, Western New York has the advantage.