The Washington Spirit host the Houston Dash in a game with major NWSL playoff implications for both sides. The Spirit, whose only losses since the start of August were due to forfeit rather than actual soccer, clinched a playoff spot before the international break; a win today would guarantee just the second home playoff game in club history. Houston, meanwhile, enter the match one point out of a playoff spot, meaning that a defeat would end their season.
Playoff scenarios: We know the Spirit are in the postseason, but we don’t know who or where they’ll play. Here’s how things are set up, going by each possible position in the standings:
- 3rd place - The Reign coming away from KC with a win means this is the highest the Spirit can finish, and there’s only one way to get there: win today. Otherwise, Chicago will stay ahead of them. This would also eliminate Houston, setting up a Spirit-NC Courage playoff game.
- 4th place - A draw plus Gotham failing to beat Louisville (they kick off an hour after this game does) would see the Spirit hosting their nearest geographic rival in the first round of the playoffs. However, there’s also a stranger scenario: if the Dash win at Audi Field and Louisville stuns Gotham, Washington would host Houston again in one week’s time (with Chicago-Gotham the other pairing).
- 5th place - If the Spirit don’t take three points today, and Gotham does win later this afternoon, Washington’s first playoff game since 2016 will be on the road...against Gotham.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 2:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4312) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Dorian Bailey, Andi Sullivan, Julia Roddar; Ashley Sanchez; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch
Bench: Devon Kerr, Paige Nielsen, Camryn Biegalski, Saori Takarada, Tori Huster, Taylor Aylmer, Anna Heilferty, Kumi Yokoyama, Tara McKeown
We do not have a league injury report the day before the game, which is not ideal, but since B&RU called into this week’s pre-game media availability, we know some things. The returning internationals all came back on time and, we’re told, raring to go. There are no new Spirit injuries, though it sounds like Huster’s status is in the air as far as being able to play enough minutes to start.
So, we’re hedging our bets and thinking she begins the game on the bench. Given how much Kris Ward has praised what he saw from the combo of Roddar in the midfield and McGrady at left back, that’s our guess at the adjustment. It could also by Aylmer, who scored that vital goal in Tacoma, getting the nod instead, or Sanchez moving deeper and McKeown starting.
Projected Dash starting 11: (4141) - Jane Campbell; Haley Hanson, Abby Dahlkemper, Katie Naughton, Allysha Chapman; Sophie Schmidt; Nichelle Prince, Shea Groom, Kristie Mewis, Bri Visalli; Rachel Daly
As we’ve established, there’s no injury report as of the time this was written, so we’re in the dark on Houston’s status. Groom was subbed off early against KC a couple of weeks ago, and then only able to play 13 minutes in their game against Portland four days later; if she’s carrying a knock, Gabby Seiler is the most likely option to start instead.
Veronica Latsko and Jasmyne Spencer are attacking options to keep an eye on, especially if the Dash don’t want to high-press (which would possibly mean moving away from Visalli as a starter), but realistically it seems like they’re going to be able to roll out their best eleven.
Referee: Like the injury report, we don’t have this information as of very late last night.
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Paramount+ (USA), Twitch (international). If you subscribe to Paramount+ via this link, your friends at B&RU get some cash!
What are you drinking?: It’ll be sunny, so this might just a press box bottled water kind of day. That said, last night’s no chance of rain forecast became sprinkles on Buzzard Point, so who knows?
Wait Jason, it’s Halloween, aren’t you going to shoehorn Monster Mash into one more thing for no good reason other than it makes you laugh?: You know it!!!
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