Spirit Face OL Reign in Decisive Final Road Match of the 2021 Season

Washington Spirit  |   October 16, 2021
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CARY, NC – OCTOBER 13: Julia Roddar #16 of the Washington Spirit reacts after scoring a goal during a game between Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on October 13, 2021 in Cary, North Carolina.

Luke Bennett

Tacoma, WA (10/16/2021) – The Washington Spirit face OL Reign on Saturday, October 16 at 10:00 p.m. ET at Cheney Stadium. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ for fans in the United States and Twitch for international viewers.  

The Spirit

The Spirit enter Saturday’s match against OL Reign in arguably its best form of the season and with a considerable amount of momentum. On Wednesday, the Spirit defeated the then third-ranked North Carolina Courage, 2-1. This victory launched the Spirit to a 9-7-6 record (33 points) which gives them sole possession of the third position on the NWSL table. 

That said, the NWSL table is about as tight as it’s been the entire 2021 season. All four playoff-eligible teams without a first-round bye – Washington, Houston, Chicago, and North Carolina respectively – are separated by a single point. NY/NJ Gotham FC, who currently is the seventh-ranked team, sits within three points – a single victory – of the fourth through sixth-placed teams. And Gotham has only played 20 of its 24 regular season matches.

The Spirit embark on the final two games of the season against two of the better teams in the NWSL – OL Reign and Houston. These games will undoubtedly determine the fate of the Spirit’s postseason eligibility. However, the Spirit have been victorious in previous matchups against these two teams this season. A win against the Reign, paired with favorable results in a few of the other matchups. 

OL Reign, the second-placed team in the NWSL, has had a truly remarkable run of great form. Despite this, in the only contest played between the two teams this season (disregarding the Spirit’s forfeit in September), the Spirit prevailed, 1-0, off a Megan Rapinoe own-goal. 

Look for Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch to continue to push the envelope offensively. Rodman has set up or scored on several goals in the last two matches and will be crucial in penetrating OL Reign’s defense. The trio of Rodman, Hatch, and Ashley Sanchez has accounted for 18 of the Spirit’s 26 goals this season. 

Also, since the return of USWNT members Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett to the active roster, the Spirit have given up only three goals in six competitions in which those two have played. The backline bolstered by this duo and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe has been the key to the Spirit’s success and will certainly be a major contributing factor in the Spirit’s playoff efforts. 

The Opposition

OL Reign has been on a terrifying run of excellent play since head coach Laura Harvey arrived. OL Reign has not lost a match in over two months – its most recent, a head-scratching defeat to the league’s worst KC NWSL in mid-August. It gets more astounding: OL Reign has lost only two games in over 100 days, dating back to June 2021.

Once a mid-table team for much of the season, OL Reign sits in second place with 39 points, a 12-7-3 record, and only a single point behind the Portland Thorns. This incredible stretch has OL Reign knocking on the door of the top spot in the NWSL, held by a Thorns squad that was thought to be a sure lock for the #1-seed in the NWSL playoffs. 

The secret to OL Reign’s success is really no secret: score and score often. OL Reign is the league’s leader in goals scored with 34, averaging over 1.5 goals a game. 

Bethany Balcer is tied for first in the Golden Boot race with nine goals, while teammate Megan Rapinoe has logged six goals despite missing a significant chunk of the season due to injury and international competition. Finally, Jessica Fishlock and Eugénie Le Sommer have both tallied five goals on the season. Combined, these four players account for a whopping 25 goals scored – a number four NWSL teams have yet to exceed this season. 

Look for both teams to trade blows in this highly-anticipated matchup between two of the league’s top-three teams. 

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