A week after the Washington Spirt match against the Portland Thorns was postponed due to numerous positive COVID-19 cases amongst the Spirit squad, “breaches of the league’s medical protocols” have forced the Spirit to forfeit their game against OL Reign, which was originally set to kick off at Audi Field on Sunday, September 12.
The NWSL announced the game’s cancellation this afternoon and awarded OL Reign three points and a 3-0 win, following FIFA guidelines for forfeits.
No additional details on the breaches were provided at the time of the announcement. According to Washington Post writer Steven Goff, a person familiar with the situation said the breaches included at least one player violating isolation requirements. The Athletic's Meg Lineham indicates that multiple players might have breached protocol. The NWSL medical protocols define a breach as an action that “directly risks the health or safety of personnel by increasing the risk of COVID-19 exposure.”
Have been told by a source with knowledge of the Spirit situation that this is more than just positive COVID results, Spirit had “multiple” protocol breaches. #NWSL— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) September 11, 2021
When Washington's game against Portland was postponed, reports emerged that up to eight Spirit players were still unvaccinated. However, all indications heading into this weekend were that Sunday’s Audi Field match was set to move forward. Goff reported that the Spirit were prepared to play with 15 players, and Black & Red United editor Jason Anderson shared that, as of Thursday, multiple sources indicated the Spirit had no new positive cases.
It is unclear what this means for the Spirit’s postponed match against the Thorns that was supposed to take place last weekend. With no news from the league about that game, it seems certain that this specific breach in protocols occurred this week.
I’ve asked if Portland might get a similar decision. https://t.co/wc6gqwsavy— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) September 11, 2021
For the Spirit, this news comes on the back of a series of negative reports about the club. Head coach Richie Burke left amid news of the toxic culture he created for some players, and there is reported infighting among ownership about the direction of the club.
In a written statement, new Spirit president Ben Olsen said, “Although we are disappointed in the NWSL’s decision to issue the Spirit a forfeit, we accept their decision. We apologize to our fans who we know are disappointed in us. Making this situation right and preparing for our remaining matches are the club’s highest priorities.”
The news gives OL Reign 32 points, which puts them even on points with the Thorns at the top of the table — although Portland has three games in hand and faces the North Carolina Courage on Sunday. OL Reign will be home for their next match, against Orlando Pride on Sunday, September 26 at 4 PM PT at Cheney Stadium.