NWSL: Washington Spirit clinch NWSL Playoff spot

The National Women’s Soccer League headed into its home stretch over the weekend as the league’s top team the Washington Spirit clinched an NWSL playoff spot.

With only three matches left to play in the NWSL’s regular season, the Washington Spirit clinched a playoff spot thanks to a 1-1 draw with the Western New York Flash. The Spirit clinched their third consecutive playoff berth, though the team are still waiting for their first NWSL championship.

Katie Stengel opened the scoring for the Spirit in the 64th minute with a goal of the year contender. Her run down the right flank on to Crystal Dunn’s pass brought Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo into no man’s land. D’ Angelo’s error in judgement led to Stengel’s remarkable shot from an extremely tight angle.

Another goalkeeping error led to the game’s second goal as Western New York levelled on 85 minutes. Samantha Mewis’ shot from the top of the 18-yard box went through the hands of a diving Kelsey Wys to give the Flash a share of the points. The draw leaves Washington a top the NWSL and Western New York clinging to the final playoff place.

The Seattle Reign are currently chasing Western New York for that final playoff place, but the ladies were only able to draw against the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.

The Red Stars, currently third and chasing the playoffs as well, left Toyota Park with a share of the spoils and could still clinch second place.

Seattle had every chance to take all three points in the fixture, taking the lead in the fifth through Manon Melis. Lauren Barnes added a second four minutes later, and it looked like Seattle would be just a point off of fourth place. However, Chicago’s Sofia Huerta pulled a goal back just before the half hour mark.

Chicago piled on the pressure in the second half, calling Seattle goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer into action on several occasions. Chicago finally made their pressure count as Seattle’s Merritt Mathias brought down Red Stars’ left-back Casey Short in the penalty area. Christen Press stepped up to the penalty spot and struck her sixth goal of the season, giving Chicago a sigh of relief and Seattle something to think about on their flight back to the northwest.

The Boston Breakers nightmare season continued as the ladies from Beantown surrendered five goals in 5-1 loss to the Portland Thorns. The Thorns’ Nadia Nadim scored a hat-trick, running her season total to eight goals. Forward Christine Sinclair and midfielder Allie Long added a goal apiece. Meanwhile Boston’s Julie King added a consolation goal.

Houston Dash picked up their second consecutive win with a 4-2 victory over the Orlando Pride. Neither team are in the running for the NWSL playoffs this season, but both can build on solid finishes for next term.

The Dash raced out to an early lead and never looked back as Canadian Janine Beckie opened the scoring in the 24th minute. Poliana added a second 25 minutes later before Kealia Ohai put the home side up 3-0 on 62 minutes.

Orlando did see a brief fight back, however. US Women’s national team player Alex Morgan and Kristen Edmonds both scored with in seven minutes of each other. However, Ohai added her second of the game in second half stoppage-time, and NWSL leading ninth of the season, to give the Dash a 4-2 win.

FC Kansas City were 2-1 winners over Sky Blue FC, putting a major dent in the New Jersey team’s NWSL playoff hopes. Sky Blue did get off to the better start against Kansas City, taking a 40th minute lead through Samantha Kerr, who tallied her third goal of the year.

However, Kansas City fought back, as Tiffany McCarty scored her first goal of the season five minutes later. Both teams looked headed for a draw until the 84th minute when Yael Averbuch tallied her third goal of the season, giving the defending NWSL champions all three points.

The loss puts Sky Blue six points off the final playoff place. The team need to win two of their last three matches, and hope Seattle and Western New York drop points in the final three fixtures of the season, if they want to make the NWSL playoffs.

Drew Farmer
I am a freelance journalist and author currently living in Manchester, England. Originally from the USA, I have written about sports and travel for years.I have written for Hopeless Football Romantic magazine, The Football Pink magazine, World Soccer Talk, Sports Collectors Daily, Forza Italian Football and many more. My debut book Soccer Travels was released in spring 2016, and details travelling to soccer matches around the globe. It can be purchased on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.