By Kevin O’Rourke
Last week the Washington Spirit experienced last minute joy with a dramatic win over in extra time, this week that last minute drama worked against them.
The Spirit, who play their home games in Germantown, had the third spot in the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs all lockup up until the 89th minute of Saturday night’s game against the Seattle Reign FC, but came away with a draw and only one point.
The Spirit jumped out to an early lead in the 29th minute when forward Lisa DeVanna found midfielder Diana Matheson behind the Seattle backline and Matheson was able to knock a low shot past goalkeeper Hope Solo on the far post for the game’s first goal.
The Spirit managed to control possession for most of the second half as they protected the one-goal lead. In the equalizer came in the 89th minute as Seattle forward Megan Rapinoe connected with Scottish international and NWSL Player of the Month Kim Little on a pass into the box. Little then broke past a line of four Washington defenders, dribbling past goalkeeper Chantel Jones for the equalizer on the near post.
While the Spirit did not have the services of their number one goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, due to concussion symptoms earlier in the week, backup Chantel Jones faced 11 shots, and made three saves to earn her first draw of the season. The Spirit also benefited from the return of forward Jodie Taylor who notched a shot in her return from her starting call-up to play with the English National Women’s Team for a friendly with Sweden last week.
While the draw doesn’t clinch the playoff spot, it does move keep them two points ahead of the fourth-place Portland Thorns, who went down in defeat to the last place Boston Breakers on Sunday. And four points ahead of the surging Chicago Red Stars, who are currently in fifth place and out of the playoffs. However, the Red Stars have two games and a possible six too collect, against Boston on Wednesday and the Western New York Flash on Saturday. If Chicago loses Wednesday, the Spirit would clinch a playoff spot.
The Spirit will end the regular season this Saturday, Aug. 16 at home in the SoccerPlex against New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC. A win will cement the Spirit in the playoffs of the NWSL. If the standings hold and Spirit enter the playoffs in the third spot, they will face FC Kansas City in the semi-finals on Saturday, Aug. 23 at 1 pm. The match will be televised on ESPN2.