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Photo Credit: Nicole Gamard/ISI Photos
BOYDS, Md (Sept 6, 2016) – The Washington Spirit (11-3-3, 36 pts) hosts Seattle Reign FC (6-5-6, 24 pts) in the first of two consecutive match-ups with their cross-country rivals on Wednesday, September 7 at 7 p.m. at the Maryland SoccerPlex. It is the final regular season home match of the 2016 season for the Spirit, and a win would guarantee the Spirit a home playoff game for the first time in franchise history.
“This will be a challenging match for us against a very talented team that is in good form,” said Washington Spirit general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “It is a great opportunity for us to achieve our goal of hosting a playoff game.”
The Spirit secured its place in the playoffs for a third consecutive season last weekend in a 1-1 draw against Western New York Flash. The Spirit’s goal came off the boot of forward Katie Stengel after she maneuvered around the Flash goalkeeper and sent a driven shot into the left side of the net.
In addition to Stengel, the Reign defense will be looking to stop midfielder Christine Nairn who is fresh off her first NWSL Goal of the Week win in Week 16 and has scored three goals in the last three games.
The Spirit’s Canadian Olympians – midfielder Diana Matheson, defender Shelina Zadorsky, and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé – will all be looking to crack the starting lineup after beginning their first match back on the bench. Matheson and Zadorsky both later subbed into the match.
The ability to rest the Canadian Olympians showcases the depth of the Spirit’s roster, which will be beneficial for the team as this match will be the team’s second out of three within an eight day span. The Reign has an even tougher assignment with this being the team’s second out of three games in a seven day period.
Despite a shaky start to the season, Seattle has been building momentum recently, partially due to the return of midfielder Megan Rapinoe after injury and the Olympics. The Reign has notched a win and a draw against two playoff contending teams since returning from the Olympic break. Manon Melis and 2014 NWSL Golden Boot winner Kim Little always pose threats, scoring six and four goals this season respectively.
The Reign currently sits 4-points out of the NWSL playoff picture with just three games remaining for all teams. A loss against the Spirit Wednesday would put the 2-time NWSL Shield winning Reign on the brink of elimination, needing to win both of their remaining contests while also receiving help from Western New York Flash or Chicago Red Stars.
A win by the Spirit combined with a loss by Portland Thorns FC (9-3-5, 32 pts.) later Saturday night would clinch the NWSL Shield for the Spirit for the first time in the four year history of the NWSL. The NWSL Shield is awarded to the team with the overall regular season record, an honor Seattle has earned each of the past two years.
The Spirit and the Reign will have a rematch on Sunday, September 11 at Memorial Stadium in Seattle at 10 p.m. ET. The Spirit will finish out its regular season in Chicago on Saturday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET.