NWSL Decision Day is finally here, and, for the Washington Spirit, everything is still up for grabs. Today’s match against the North Carolina Courage – played simultaneously with every final game in the league – will determine whether the Spirit host a playoff game or pack up their cleats until next season.

Tied at 30 points, Washington and North Carolina are both battling for one of 4 unclaimed playoff spots and can both clinch and secure a first-round home game with a win. A draw or loss would complicate matters, leaving the fate of either team in the hands of the other 6 vying for spots. The Spirit are especially vulnerable because of their -2 goal differential, meaning they could lose the first tiebreaker against many of the contenders.

Complicating matters for the Spirit are the suspensions of head coach Mark Parsons and center back Tara McKeown for yellow card accumulation. Parsons has hopefully prepared his assistant coaching team to make the sideline calls needed in his absence to minimize the impact. Meanwhile, McKeown has started in all 21 of Washington’s game this season, and the defense will absolutely be weakened by the loss of her one-on-one defending skills and steady partnership with Sam Staab.

Just a few years after the break-up of their Championship dynasty team, North Carolina have rebuilt themselves into one of the best organized teams in the league, playing in a possession-based style and achieving the highest pass completion rate by a full 5 percentage points. Despite this, they’ve failed to win a game since July 1 and have put themselves in jeopardy of narrowly missing out on the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Key Player: Trinity Rodman

Though she broke her scoring streak last weekend, Rodman put up as many expected goals as the entire opposing team and nearly scored a game-winner in the final minutes. Another big performance from her could easily put the Spirit over the top.

Watch Out For: Kerolin

Keeping Brazilian winger Kerolin away from the ball will be key to the Spirit’s success. With 10 goals this season, Kerolin is just one behind the leader in the Golden Boot race and has also made an impressive 95 progressive carries, leading the league in that skill.

Challenge: Especially later in the season, Washington have struggled to finish chances, with their xG often outstripping actual goals scored. They’ve shown improvement over the last couple games in finding pathways to the goal, but they’ll need to improve their accuracy to lock down a victory tonight.

Previously: The Spirit beat the Courage 2-1 in their first regular season match-up, but North Carolina swept their Challenge Cup series this year. The most recent match-up was a demoralizing 6-0 loss for the Spirit during the World Cup.

Washington Spirit Availability:

Out: Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Civana Kuhlmann (SEI – knee);  Inès Jaurena (foot); Tara McKeown (suspension)

Questionable: None

North Carolina Courage Availability:

Out: Emily Gray (SEI – knee); Riley Jackson (D45 – foot); Estelle Johnson (excused absence); Rikako Kobayashi (knee); Victoria Pickett (knee); Clara Robbins (SEI – lower leg); Meredith Speck (SEI – knee); Olivia Wingate (mid-body)

Questionable: None

Location: Audi Field

Kickoff time: 5 p.m. ET

Referee: Ricardo Fierro

Available streaming: Paramount+

ByAnnie Elliott

Mostly writing about the Washington Spirit

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Rusk

Thanks, Annie. A must win match for the Spirit.

Talonesque #

Wow, incredibly rough turn of events. Looks like Rodman went for a simple makeup trip after she thought she was muscled, loses control and ends up… well, I think it’s just dangerous enough to ask the question. Then a clear example of how offside technology is needed in the US leagues, holy moly, how did the linesmen not catch that, and how was it not reviewed? Manaka clearly about a yard offside

Talonesque #

For those unaware, Spirit a player down and a goal down in a sequence that couldn’t have lasted much more than three minutes

Talonesque #

This might well be looked back on as Rodman’s “Beckham moment.” No doubt will accomplish a lot and achieve astounding things, but this is a low point

David Rusk

Spirit lose 0-1 Fought valiantly after Rodman’s boneheaded red card in 23rd minute. Gave up goal on possible offside 2 minutes later.


I’m not saying the red card wasn’t allowed, but she shouldn’t have even been put into that position as she was fouled right before that. The play should have been dead.

Rodman has been the most consistently fouled player this year and the ref in this game just let it go a number of times in the game. I’m not sure what the wisdom was on putting a rookie ref in a game of this magnitude.

Last edited 1 month ago by jmauro2000
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x