The Washington Spirit tied the Seattle Reign 1-1 in what could have been a playoff clincher for the Spirit. The Spirit entered the evening with the chance to clinch a playoff spot with a victory over the first place Reign. For the first 88 minutes, they looked well on their way to doing just that. However, Seattle scored the equalizer in the 89th minute. The tie brings the Spirit closer to the playoffs, with a 10-8-5 record, good for 35 points. Seattle finishes their season undefeated at the Moda Pitch Memorial Stadium.
The Spirit made several changes to the usual starting lineup. A key change was in goal. Suffering from concussion symptoms, Ashlyn Harris did not travel with the team to Seattle, and in her place Chantel Jones got the start in goal. Jones was 0-3 in her previous three starts this season. Head coach, Mark Parsons, also started Toni Pressley at center back, in the place of Niki Cross.
The Spirit got the scoring started in the 29th minute. Following a turnover near the midfield line by Megan Rapinoe, the Spirit launched a counter attack. Jodie Taylor found Lisa De Vanna at the top of the box, who then found a cutting Diana Matheson inside the 18-yard box, on the left side. Drawing Hope Solo off her line, Matheson sent a shot to the far post with pace, giving the Spirit a 1-0 lead. It was Matheson’s eighth goal of the season.
For the rest of the match, the Spirit sunk back into a defending mentality. They fought to keep the 1-0 advantage, seeing the postseason rapidly approaching. However, clinching just wasn’t in the cards. Throughout the second half, the Reign gained momentum, forcing chance after chance. Jones had to make two tough saves in the second half to keep the Spirit ahead.
The Reign began to really turn the tide when they subbed in Kim Little in the 68th minute. Little, the probable NWSL MVP this season with 16 goals, came on for Mariah Nogueira and made an immediate impact. In the 86th minute, bad luck struck the Spirit. Pressley went down with an apparent calf injury, forcing Parsons to sub in Niki Cross. Rapinoe, playing the ball from the left side of the pitch, found Little with a beautifully placed pass inside the box. Little took one touch around Jones and placed it into the back of the net to get the equalizer for the Reign. The last 15 minutes of the match was evidence to why Seattle has run away during the regular season.
The Spirit’s playoff chances remain in their hands. With one regular season game remaining, the equation stays the same; win and they’re in. With a week to get players healthy and prepared, the Spirit return home to face Sky Blue FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex Saturday August 16 at 630pm ET.