The Washington Spirit came into this season as favorites to make the playoffs, they have done more than just that. They locked up the first playoff spot in the league, September 7th, with a draw against Western New York and have the possibility of claiming the NWSL Shield, Friday night in Chicago.
The offense has been doing well all season and now that Crystal Dunn has finally scored, that will cushion the blow of having Cali Farquarhson (torn ACL) and possibly Estefania Banini (knee surgery) unavailable for the post season. However, the Spirit have gotten back Diana Matheson, fresh off a bronze medal win and showing no signs of stopping this season. Katie Stengel and Frannie Ordega are not to be overlooked and for a rookie, Cheyna Williams is having a pretty good year, herself.
The midfield has been pretty solid all year, Christine Nairn, Tori Huster and Johanna Lohman have held down the center of the pitch and the Spirit have been better for it. These 3 play well together and have been a great link between offense and defense. They’ll play a huge role for the Spirit, especially if they want to go further than the semifinal this year.
The defense is where the struggle has been in the last few games. There has been movement of personnel and Kelsey Wys has taken hold of the starting keeper role since the Olympic Break. While all defenders are more than capable of doing their jobs, it’ll be interesting to see who starts depending on who the Spirit will be playing.
The Spirit have the deepest roster in the league. With Wys starting, that puts reigning bronze medalist and Canada’s #1, Stephanie Labbe, on the bench. Not a bad choice for any coach. If you’re starting Stengel, Dunn and Matheson up front, you have Ordgea and Williams on the sideline waiting to go in. Defense is where you really see the depth, Alyssa Kleiner, Whitney Church, and Caprice Dydasco have all had great games and have been in and out of the starting 11 all year. With players of this caliber sitting on the bench, not in the starting 11, it makes it difficult for any team to properly prepare, knowing those players could come on at any time and drastically change a game.
Regardless of who ends up being their opponent, the Spirit will be riding the high of playing their first ever semifinal game in DC (where they are 7-1-2 this season) and for players like Ali Krieger, Christine Nairn, and Johanna Lohman, the idea of playing this game, in front of their friends and family, is something they’ve dreamed of. Expect to see them pushing to get into the final in Houston, a game that has been elusive for the Spirit the last 2 seasons.