Spirit clinch home semifinal on night overshadowed by national-anthem controversy

The Equalizer Staff September 7, 2016 29

In arguably the biggest game of the night, the Washington Spirit defeated the Seattle Reign 2-1 to clinch a home playoff match. However, it was Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s decision to play the national anthem early to prevent Megan Rapinoe from kneeling in protest that generated the most buzz during the game.

Lynch issued a statement saying he would not allow Rapinoe “to hijack our organization’s event.” After the game, Rapinoe called the decision “f***ing unbelievable.”

On the field, things didn’t go the way the Reign needed them to. With the win over Seattle, the Spirit secure their spot as one of the top two teams in the NWSL this season, clinching them a home playoff match. Despite the loss, the two-time defending Shield winners Seattle Reign are still in the playoff race, courtesy of FC Kansas City’s upset of the Chicago Red Stars earlier tonight, but the odds are slim.

With three games scheduled in eight days, head coach Jim Gabarra played a different lineup, rotating in bench players to give his regular starters a rest. That meant Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn, Joanna Lohman, Katie Stengel and Tori Huster all started on the bench. However, Dunn subbed in early on after Cali Farquharson was helped off the field after a leg injury.

Dunn, the 2015 NWSL Golden Boot winner, had yet to score this season, but she finally put last season’s ghost to rest with a rocket of a shot past Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer in first half stoppage time, putting the Spirit in the lead just before half time. Dunn nearly scored again in the second half, but her shot was blocked by Kopmeyer, who failed to the collect the ball. Cheyna Williams reached the loose ball before a Reign defender and knocked it into the back of the net to double the Spirit’s lead.

Crystal Dunn's first goal of the season helped secure the Spirit a 2-1 win over Seattle on a night overshadowed by controversy. (Photo Copyright Erica McCualley for The Equalizer)

Crystal Dunn’s first goal of the season helped secure the Spirit a 2-1 win over Seattle on a night overshadowed by controversy. (Photo Copyright Erica McCualley for The Equalizer)

Christine Nairn, usually one of the Spirit’s most solid players, had an off night against Seattle. She failed to convert a penalty kick for the Spirit in the first half, sending her left-footed shot just wide of the goal. She was later called for a handball in the box and the Reign were awarded a penalty kick, which Kim Little easily converted to score Seattle’s lone goal of the match.

The two teams will next travel to Seattle for the second match in their home-and-home series on Sunday. If the Reign draw or lose that match, the two-time Shield winners will be eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

[MORE: Flash draw Breakers; Dash and FCKC eliminated from playoff contention]

  • SEM

    Well, because The Spirit opted to play the national anthem before the players came out on the field it sure garnered enough press to get the attention of people who could care less about women’s soccer. I still believe that there is no such thing as bad press. Should be very interesting to see what comes of the controversial move. Maybe my some miracle more people will watch.

    • guest

      yes people will watch. they will turn on the tv to watch the pregame national anthem. then when the women’s pro soccer game starts, they will turn the tv off.

    • Craigaroo

      If Rapinoe takes her protest and carries it out at the US National Team game, that would really test the theory! If it was my druthers, even I wouldn’t willingly risk a fan backlash against the team. Although the Federation, or the coach, could respond by suspending her for the next match – more controversy! more publicity!

  • Anson

    I applaud Bill Lynch for playing the National Anthem the way he did. There are many things this young lady will never understand. Ms. Rapinoe needs to pick up a gun and go defend the United States for all the freedoms she and others enjoy today! It is attitudes like hers that will ultimately ruin these United States. Megan needs to grow a pair and quit hiding behind her sexuality and sport. Take responsibility for something in your life and quit blaming others!

    • West_of_the_Cascades

      The person who lacks a pair is Bill Lynch – what a coward. Can’t tolerate a player engaging in a silent, dignified protest. It’s going to be great fun watching the Thorns dismantle the Spirit in the championship match.

      • mockmook

        Right, she can protest, but he isn’t allowed to “speak” — typical left-wing logic.

        • Volley

          He can speak all he wants. But instead he interfered with another’s right to speak.

          I can hold a sign saying vote Party A. You can hold a sign saying vote Party B. But I don’t get to remove your sign because I don’t agree with it.

          • guest

            megan rapinoe has no constitutional right to protest in the workplace.

          • Volley

            Well that’s a different argument to the one I replied to. The interesting thing though is that Bill Lynch is not her employer and there has been no indication that her employer has a problem with it.

          • guest

            it is the washington spirits workplace.

          • necron99

            I don’t have a side in this fight but I do have a thought experiment question.

            If Pinoe or supporters of Pinoe’s protest decided that the Swastika was a good symbol to use for their anger over how they feel America is treating minorities, and made banners to hold up or hang in the stadium, would the Spirit owner be violating their free speech rights to protest?

            (I am in no way saying Pinoe or BLM protesters are Nazi’s. I am just using this to highlight a dilemma.)

            The correct answer is that with free speech they have the right to use that imagery if they want to.

            However I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t think they Spirit owner would remove the banners stadium or the banner holders from the stadium if they refused to take them down.

            And the league would expect him to take them down because it is bad optics for the league.

            I don’t think Pinoe’s protest is anywhere near the level of people holding up nazi symbols, but people are treating this right to protest in the workplace, or protest in the stadium as an absolute, when they definitely would be unhappy if it went to some other mental places. There are plenty of protests that WoSo fans would be unhappy about and expect the owner to do something about them. If a bunch of Christian WoSo fans decided to have no gay rights, or no gay marriage signs for example.

            Pinoe has clearly chosen a finally tuned limited protest to try and make a certain statement and good for her, but there are some people that her choice of venue for that statement is going to anger. The Spirit owner personally feels that to him the anthem and saluting the flag represents honoring military service, and Pinoe’s choice of protest feels like a personal affront.

            Now from the stands that game last night, I didn’t even think anything of them playing the anthem early. I thought it was because they had already had a 1 hour rain delay, and the forcast called for more thunderstorms. Given the Plex must close at 11pm, I thought they were just trying to hurry the game along to make sure they got the full game in. They already had one game not get a chance to complete a couple of years ago that ended Chicago’s chance at the playoffs. Chicago was losing in the second half, and did not get a chance to come back. I did not even know about the uproar until I got home and saw the news. I don’t read my phone while I am at the game.

        • womp

          Ugh. Mockmook, didn’t take you for someone who used terms like “left-wing logic.” The Spirit can play the anthem, or not play it at all. Their choice. I do think it was childish of Lynch to play it while everyone was in the locker room. I’d rather have 99% of the teams stand at attention and the whole stadium listen to someone proudly sing it than play it randomly via recording while teams are in the locker room… if honoring the anthem is the goal, doesn’t feel like he achieved that.

      • guest

        so only megan rapinoe is allowed to protest but no other americans have the same right. that’s freedom.

      • guest

        megan rapinoe has no constitutional right to protest in the workplace. however, she is allowed to protest as much as she wants on her own time.

    • smallchief

      Where were Trump, Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney when the call came for them “to pick up a gun and defend our country?”

      I bet a nickel that that you think one or more of them is a real patriot.

    • Constant Weeder

      What about the freedoms she and others don’t enjoy: freedom to drive while black, freedom from harassment when wearing a hijab, freedom to hold hands or kiss in public? People who believe in the ideals the US represents should not be satisfied with the status quo.

    • guest

      How do you not get that part of the “freedoms she and others enjoy in this country” = the ability to protest and freely express thoughts? Protest has a long history in this country, and the fact that we allow peaceful protest is a huge part of why I’m proud to live in the USA.

  • wosofan

    Rapinoe has won. That the Spirit altered the anthem procedure is huge, highly significant. The point of Rapinoe and Kapernick is to draw attention to the mindless allegiance to the ostensible “law and order” in the nation, which plainly does not treat all equally. Neither the flag nor the anthem are solely the province of the military. I say this as one who lost one cousin and had another serve in conflicts in the Middle East.

    • guest

      i agree. let’s all put on our fidel castro shirts to support the cuban takeover and fight for human rights.

      • Steglitz49

        Try shirts with “The other ladies went to Rio; we went home” or order them from your Swedish supplier.

  • FawcettFan14

    This anthem nonsense is getting the league some publicity. That’s…a silver lining. Otherwise everyone involved is just acting like children.

  • guest

    hopefully, the seattle drama queen reign will be out of the playoffs by the end of the weekend.

  • mskillens

    So…… not that you needed to twist my ankle to see these games butttttttt I’m suddenly interested in watching the next Seattle game now.

  • Rdalford

    Washington attendance 3039 (from box score on NWSL site Stats page)

    Washington YTD (3578+4333+3545+5750+3448+3036+3631+2930+4527+3039)
    Washington YTD total=37817 YTD avg=3782 (mean) with median of 3562

    mid-week, school night, multiple lightening delays, etc … but Washington Spirit got the win and will get to host a semi-final playoff match

    Washington regular 2016 season attendance (total 37817 avg=3782) is a drop from the 2015 season (total=40865 avg=4087) but getting to host a playoff adds opportunity for 5000+ more paid attendance to bring 2016 total attendance/$$$ up.

    • Steglitz49

      Given the WNT’s loss in the OG, the post-Rio numbers are holding up well not least this mid-week effort.

      • Rdalford

        I attended this game (although grandkids and daughter/son in law did not due mostly to school/work commitments but also weather) so worth the reminder that reported attendance is tickets sold. Spirit had reported tickets sales of 3000+ day before but due to weather and mid-week did not get the 1000+ walk up day of games ticket sales that Spirit games normally experience. Personal example (so may not be relevant) but had the game been on a weekend then we would have attended with grandkids and our daughter so 5 or 6 tickets but for this mid-week game (with rain/lightning delays) only 1 (although since we have 2 season tickets probably counted as 2 in attendance).

        • Steglitz49


          Attendances for WoSo are not that good anywhere in the world but better in the US on the whole and probably inching up everywhere — at least we hope.

      • EbaJ

        I attended as well. We had heavy rain and lightning until well after 6:00 PM for a 7:00 PM start. The crowd was pretty good given the late start and the chance of postponement. Lynch was present and seemed a bit anxious. Many sitting near us in the crowd knew that it was going to be an issue and would call attention to the matter far more than a selfie kneel down would.

        • Steglitz49

          We have got to get club games better attended so all kudos to you and yours. Keep up the fine work.