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Washington, D.C. (05/01/22) – The Washington Spirit will face OL Reign on Sunday afternoon in both clubs’ regular season opener at 5:00 p.m. EST at Audi Field. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ for fans in the United States and on Twitch for international viewers. Both squads are coming off their final group stage matches of the Challenge Cup and prepare for two head-to-head matches in the nation’s capital in the next four days.
OL Reign put together the best record of the preseason tournament with four wins, zero losses and two draws. In the side’s first matchup with the Spirit since last season’s semifinal match in Tacoma, the Reign look to kick-start a return trip to a top-two seed on Sunday.
Watch out for a hot start from the Reign’s defending leading scorer Bethany Balcer as she looks to improve upon her nine goals scored during the 2021 campaign. Longtime Reign players Jess Fishlock and Lauren Barnes are expected to carry a heavy load for the side on the defensive side of the ball as well.
This matchup will be the first of three in the month of May between Washington and the Reign. After this month, the next time they could see each other is in the playoffs in October.
After clinching a Challenge Cup semifinal berth thanks to a draw at North Carolina and a Portland Thorns FC loss at Angel City last weekend, Washington opens up its regular season before finishing off the preseason tournament in the second half of the week.
The Spirit are expected to return Dorian Bailey and Sam Staab to the field while Andi Sullivan and Kelley O’Hara are officially listed as questionable as Sullivan continues to battle a calf injury and O’Hara nurses a hamstring injury sustained in last weekend’s match at North Carolina.
2021 Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch once again led the league in goals, this time in the Challenge Cup with five goals in six matches. Watch out for Hatch to start her title defense off with a score or two. Reigning rookie of the year Trinity Rodman and the Spirit’s leading Challenge Cup shot-taker Ashley Sanchez will likely round out the attacking third.
With 12 goals in the past 315 minutes of game action, averaging one goal every 26 minutes, the red-hot Spirit face a tough first test in the Reign, who consistently find themselves atop the league table. Don’t be surprised if these two sides see each other again in the postseason.
Following Sunday evening’s match, the Spirit will play host to OL Reign again on Wednesday, May 4 at Audi Field in a Challenge Cup semifinal match.