With a win against the Orlando Pride tonight and help from other results later this weekend, the Washington Spirit could become the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season. Both clubs will get some major stars back, as the NWSL's Olympic break is officially over. Ali Krieger returned to the field early for the Spirit, and she'll be joined by forward Crystal Dunn. Orlando, meanwhile, will welcome back Alex Morgan, former Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, and Brazilian defender Monica.
Earlier this week, the Spirit's Estefania Banini and Pride left back Steph Catley were both ruled out due to injuries. Banini had surgery on a left knee chondral defect earlier on Wednesday and isn't expected to return for at least four weeks. Catley, a Pride defender and Australian international, was ruled out for the remainder of the season due to injuries sustained during the Olympics. Both the Pride left back and the Spirit forward are key to their club's attack, a major blow to both teams as they push for the playoffs.
The Pride have struggled lately and the team has two wins in their past nine matches. The Spirit come into tonight's match in first place and with only one loss in the past five games. Due to the Olympic break, the Pride haven't played since the end of July, while the Spirit played last Thursday, making up their road game against the Houston Dash after a storm had prevented it from being played as originally scheduled.
With a win against the Pride, the Spirit would need the Portland Thorns to defeat the Seattle Reign and a Sky Blue FC loss to the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday in order to clinch a playoff berth. Even if those two results don't fall into place, the Spirit just need two wins in their final five games to mathematically assure themselves of a playoff spot.
This is the Spirit's second and final game against the Orlando Pride. In June, the Spirit won 2-0 against the Pride.
Location: Camping World Stadium (Orlando, Florida)
Kick-off time: 7:30pm Eastern
Available TV: None
Available streaming: NWSL Soccer, free and non geo-blocked
Treat this as the gamethread for tonight’s match.