Photo Credit: Tony Quinn/ISI Photos
BOYDS, Md (Sept 9, 2016) – The Washington Spirit (12-3-3, 39 pts) travels to Seattle to face Seattle Reign FC (6-6-6, 24 pts) on Sunday, September 11 knowing a win would secure the NWSL Shield while a draw would eliminate 2-time Shield winning Reign from the 2016 playoff picture.
It is the second consecutive match between the cross country rivals, with the Spirit coming away with a 2-1 victory on Wednesday at home. That win secured a home playoff game for the Spirit for the first time in franchise history by ensuring they finish at least in the top two in the final NWSL standings.
“Seattle is always a challenging place to play,” said Spirit general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “We look forward to the opportunity to compete against one of the top teams in the league as we build into the playoffs.”
On Wednesday, the Spirit defeated the Reign 2-1 in the teams’ first matchup of the year. Midfielder Christine Nairn played a free kick down the right flank to forward Crystal Dunn who fired a shot from the top of the box to notch her first goal of the season. Forward Cheyna Williams scored the Spirit’s second goal off a rebound from Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. Kim Little scored a penalty kick goal for Seattle after a Nairn handball in the box.
The Spirit demonstrated its depth on Wednesday by resting star players such as Ali Krieger and Tori Huster. Mid-season signing and Denmark international Line Sigvardsen Jensen started for the first time and defender Alyssa Kleiner made her first return to the starting XI since July 9th.
The Spirit goes into the weekend in first place, four points ahead of second place Portland Thorns. If the Spirit wins or Portland loses, the Spirit will secure the NWSL Shield which is awarded to the team with the best regular season record. The Spirit would also secure the Shield if both they and Portland draw.
On the other hand, the Reign, the two-time defending NWSL Shield winner, faces an uphill battle to make the playoffs, needing to win the team’s final two games and get help from either Chicago Red Stars or Western New York Flash.
Following an international break next weekend, the Spirit will finish out its regular season on the road against Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET before heading home to the Plex for the semifinal, most likely on Friday, September 30, though final details and TV schedules are still being finalized. The only other possibility is October 1.
The team will announce playoff ticket information shortly, with season ticket holders having at least a 48 hour pre-sale opportunity likely to begin early next week.