WASHINGTON – The Washington Spirit entered its match against the Houston Dash looking to secure a home game for the playoffs, while their opponents were looking to book their place into the postseason.
The Spirit maintained their composure against a desperate opponent and scored the game’s only goal to win defeat the Dash 1-0 and enter the postseason on a four-game winning streak.
The lone strike came in the 76th minute after Staab played a long ball from Washington’s defensive end to a streaking Trinity Rodman towards the penalty area. Rodman sprinted past Houston’s backline and connected with the bouncing ball to beat goalkeeper Jane Campbell for the eventual game-winner.
“I just saw their line pretty jagged,” Stabb said. “They were leaving spaces open, and Trinity is one of the most athletic people I’ve ever seen, so if you just found some space to put [the ball], she’s going to go get it.”
Washington finished the regular season going undefeated (6-0-3) in nine matches since the removal of Richie Burke. Since reports of the team’s behind-the-scenes turmoil came to light, interim head coach Kris Ward said the players have taken it upon themselves to play for themselves and come together as a family. Even days were come to train “absolutely spent,” they continue to perform on the field.
“I am continually amazed to see them continue to show up in the ways they do and when there has been a lot stacked against them,” Ward said. “They’ve always risen to the occasion. I am super happy for them and super happy for D.C. to have a home playoff game. I could never have imagined this.”
Washington almost took the lead early in the fifth minute when Ashley Sanchez sent a floating cross for an Ashley Hatch header. However, Campbell made an outstretched save to keep the match scoreless.
Both Washington and Houston battled for possession and had multiple attempts on goal in the first half. The Dash switched their defensive shape from a four-player line down to three after halftime to add more numbers in attack.
However, the strategy was risky as it opened up space to the Spirit’s trio of attackers in Rodman, Hatch and Sanchez. So it was only a matter of time before Stabb’s pass to the rookie sealed Houston’s playoff fate.
Joy showered Washington’s faces postgame, celebrating not just the win but having a moment of relief during a challenging season. With part-owner Y. Michele Kang dressed in a complete Spirit kit, the players circled around in midfield for a group huddle before breaking out into a water shower celebration.
“It’s kind of a relief [to end the regular season] because there’s been a lot going on, and we’ve been through a lot, and we’ve stuck by each other,” Rodman said. “Soccer obviously has been our outlet for everything. We’re motivated more than anything. We want to win so bad, and we will do anything to get the win.”
Washington earned the No. 3 seed and will face two-time league champions and No. 6 seed North Carolina Courage in a single-elimination match. In the regular season, the Spirit has been successful against the Courage with two victories and a draw in three games.
The quarterfinal match will take place at Audi Field next Sunday at 5:30 p.m. It will also be broadcast on Paramount Plus.
Photo credit: Xavi Dussaq/Washington Spirit