In a pretty-close-to-must-win match on the weekend, the Reign took an early two-goal lead but couldn’t hold it, and did not win. The draw against one of the teams they’re chasing in the standings kept them alive, but now their playoff hopes rest on getting multiple points in a pair of matches against the top team in the standings.
The road leg is tonight, in an odd midweek schedule that has every NWSL team in action a week before taking a two-week break (thinking_face_emoji).
The Spirit certainly have enough motivation to take revenge on the Reign. It was Seattle that knocked Washington out of the playoffs in semifinal matches the previous two seasons, and now the Spirit have the chance to knock the Reign out of the playoffs before they even begin.
Washington’s Shield-chasing season has been built on their stingy, league-best defense, which has surrendered an average of less than a goal a game. That’s not a good sign for a Seattle team that has scored all season at a rate well below what you’d expect from the offensive talent they can deploy. They will need to find their rhythm to beat Megan Oyster and crew in the Spirit backline.
At the other end, Crystal Dunn is ever a terror despite somehow not scoring even a single goal yet after her MVP, 15-goal season in 2015 (though the fact that the Spirit can top the standings even without no goals from Dunn is in its own way terrifying). In the absence of her goalscoring, a platoon of attackers have taken on the scoring load. Diana Matheson is a force in midfield and Christine Nairn might be the most dangerous player in the league on dead balls.
Shutting them down will be a task, but Seattle doesn’t have a choice at this point. It’s find a way or end the season outside the playoffs for the first time in the Kim Little-era.