Still on the rocky path to the postseason, Washington Spirit will have to take on a new role tonight: that of the villains standing in the way of victory for OL Reign and superstar Megan Rapinoe in her final home game.
Airing on CBS, the game has been planned as a celebration of Rapinoe’s career, and over 30,000 fans are expected to be in attendance. Clearly, this will be no average away game for Washington. In addition to all those fans screaming for a Reign goal and protesting every call the Spirit’s way, OL Reign’s players will be extremely motivated to give their longtime star one last home win (and a chance at her only Championship). To win, the Spirit will need to fully enter their villain era, channeling the crowd’s ire into motivation and finding a way to relish defeating the hometown hero.
Like the Spirit, OL Reign are in a fierce fight to maintain a spot in the NWSL playoffs. They will be missing their starting centerback Alana Cook, after she was shown a red card last weekend, but her likely replacement, Emily Sonnett, is well-known to Spirit fans as part of Washington’s 2021 Championship team. Sonnett has largely played in the midfield this year, but if she’s able to effectively adjust into a defensive position, she could help shut down a Washington team that is sometimes limited in terms of paths to the goal.
Key Player: Ouleymata Sarr
After scoring her first NWSL goal last week, forward Ouleymata Sarr is showing her added value to the Spirit’s attack. Also leading the team in shots that game (tied with Ashley Hatch) and able to link up with teammates like Ashley Sanchez for an assist, Sarr provides an extra avenue of attack that could be what the Spirit need to win tonight.
Watch Out For: Megan Rapinoe
Rapinoe is not the Reign’s leading goal-scorer this season – that would be Bethany Balcer, with 6 goals to Rapinoe’s 2 – but her 5 assists and legendary skill as a set piece kicker demonstrate that Rapinoe is still central to OL Reign’s attack. Perhaps more importantly, her impending retirement means that every player on the Reign will be trying to set her up to score.
This gives the Spirit both a challenge and an opportunity. Successfully preventing Rapinoe from getting any chances could frustrate and demoralize her teammates, but over-committing to defending her could leave the Spirit open to a surprise from one of Seattle’s other attackers.
Challenges: The Spirit will need to weather the storm of Rapinoe fans and an OL Reign team with multiple avenues of attack, while also finishing enough of their own chances to bring home a win.
Previously: Washington Spirit defeated the Reign 1-0 in their season opener in Washington.
OL Reign Availability:
Out: Alana Cook (suspension); Sofia Huerta (leg); Rose Lavelle (leg); Nikki Stanton (suspension)
Washington Spirit Availability:
Out: Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Civana Kuhlmann (SEI – knee); Inès Jaurena (foot)
Location: Lumen Field, Seattle, WA
Kickoff time: 8 p.m. ET
Referee: Thomas Snyder
Available TV: CBS