Washington, D.C. (10/31/2021) – The Washington Spirit face the Houston Dash on Sunday, October 31 at 2:00 p.m. ET at Audi Field. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ for fans in the United States and on Twitch for international viewers.
The Spirit return home to Audi Field to conclude the 2021 regular season campaign. After clinching a spot in the 2021 NWSL playoffs, the Spirit enter the final game with 36 points and a 10-7-6 record. The Spirit are one of only four teams in the NWSL with 10 wins or more entering the final game of the season.
With a win, the Spirit earn a third seed and home-field advantage in the first round of the NWSL playoffs. Likewise, with a NY/NJ Gotham FC draw or loss to Racing Louisville FC, the Spirit will earn home-field advantage. However, if the Spirit lose and Gotham FC win or draw, the Spirit will drop to the fifth seed and would lose home-field advantage.
In their previous game, the Spirit defeated red-hot OL Reign, 2-0, in convincing fashion. In this game, Taylor Aylmer netted her first-career goal. This victory also extended the Spirit’s streak of games without a defeat to eight. Excluding the two forfeited match in early September, the Spirit have not surrendered a loss since August 7.
A reason for this success is certainly the stout Spirit defense anchored by defenders Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Paige Nielsen, and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. In the last seven games (excluding the forfeited games), the Spirit defense has allowed only three goals.
Finally, it is impossible dismiss Ashley Hatch as a major reason for the Spirit’s success. The attacker leads the NWSL Golden Boot race with ten goals this season. Three of her ten goals have come in the last three matches.
Look for the Spirit to continue their hot streak into the postseason by extending their good form on both sides of the pitch.
The Houston Dash come into the match with much less security. The Dash own a 9-9-5 record and 32 points, good for the sixth and final playoff-eligible spot on the NWSL table. Although the Dash own a tiebreaker with the North Carolina Courage, the two teams are gridlocked at 32 points. Thus, the Dash must better or equal the Courage’s performance on Sunday in order to remain playoff eligible.
This season, the Dash have found limited success against the Spirit, taking a loss (1-2) and a draw (2-2) in two games. In these two games, the Dash surrendered four goals by four different Spirit players. Coming into the match, the Dash are riding a two-game losing streak. In these losses, the Dash were outscored 4-0.
Worthy of note is Houston’s scoring ability. The Dash are the third in the NWSL with 31 goals scored this season. Nine of these come from Rachel Daly, who trails Hatch in the race of the Golden Boot. Ultimately, the Dash go as their goal-scoring goes. So if the Spirit are able to continue their defensive ways, they will likely find a good deal of success.