For the second year in a row the Washington Spirit traveled to Seattle for a semi-final playoff game, and for the second year in a row, the Washington Spirit lost to Seattle in a semi-final playoff game.
Seattle Reign FC defeated the Spirit 3-0 in the NWSL semifinal. While both teams played tight in the first half, the Spirit fought off the Reign’s strong pressure, the game was tied going into halftime. The talented Reign offense had the Spirit’s defenders on their heels most of the first half. It took a number of outstanding saves on the part of Spirit keeper Ashlyn Harris to keep the Reign off the scoreboard in the first half.
The first major chance of the game came in the 4th minute when Seattle’s Megan Rapinoe got behind the Spirit’s back line and passed to Merritt Mathias, who hit the post. The ball bounced back in front of the goal, and the Spirit’s Megan Oyster knocked the ball out of danger.
In the second half, the Reign was able to capitalize on its chances and scored three goals in the last 20 minutes of the game to take the victory and move on to the final.
The Spirit had some chances but rarely got the ball into a position to be a threat to Seattle’s goalkeeper Hope Solo. In the 64th minute, Diana Matheson worked the ball up the field to Crystal Dunn. Dunn shot from just outside the 18-yard box, and her effort sailed just wide of the Seattle goal.
Seattle finally got goals from late substitution Beverly Yanez in the 71st minute to break the deadlock. It was Rapinoe who set up Yanez for the goal with a cross into the center of the six-yard box where Yanez ran to the ball and put the Reign up 1-0.
Just four minutes later it would again be Rapinoe who got the better of the Spirit with a ripped shot on goal that sailed wide of the reach of Harris to put the Reign up 2-0. The Reign would score again in the 89th minute when another sub, Mariah Bullock would score on a pass that she trapped with her chest and blasted past Harris to extend the lead to 3-0 late in the game.
The Spirit played without their standout defender and arguably best field player, Ali Kreiger who, in a highly questionable decision decided to attend her father’s wedding in Virginia Beach rather than play a post-season game with her team in Seattle. While Kreiger had missed a number of games this season due commitments with the US National Team and Women’s World Cup, surely she would have been a better challenge for Seattle’s Rapinoe in this post-season game which, had the Spirit won, they would be playing for the NWSL championship.
The Spirit ended their third season with a record of 8-7-6, and while they made the post-season for the second straight year the team barely improved on last year’s record of 10-9-5 remaining slightly over .500.
However, the sport of women’s soccer had a great year. The Spirit got a huge boost in attendance thanks to the US Women winning the World Cup. Four of Spirit’s final five home games after the World Cup were sold out as the sport’s popularity soared. Next summer, will see another boost as the national team and members of all NWSL teams will compete in the Summer Olympics in Rio. However, if superstars like Kreiger are continually allowed to disregard post season games the NWSL may suffer the same fate as the two prior women’s professional soccer leagues and end up folding as the fan base drifts away.
Caption: Washignton Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris rolls a ball in last week's game at the Maryland SoccerPlex versus the Seatle Reign. The Spirit played Seattle again on Sunday night in the first round of the postseason. Seatle won 3-0.
Photo by Germantown Pulse.