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Spirit clinch playoffs with draw; Thorns eliminated

The Spirit clinched a playoff berth at the expense of the Thorns. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

The Spirit clinched a playoff berth at the expense of the Thorns. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

A scoreless draw on Thursday on the road was all the Washington Spirit needed to clinch the fourth and final berth in the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs. The Spirit drew defending league champions FC Kansas City, 0-0 at the Swope Soccer Village.

The draw eliminates Portland Thorns FC from playoff contention. Portland was the only remaining team outside of the top four with a chance at making the playoffs, but the Thorns needed to win their two remaining games and needed the Spirit to lose all three of their remaining games. Portland hosts Washington on Sunday.

On Thursday in Kansas City, neither the hosts nor the visitors had many chances to speak of in a match that always looked destined for a scoreless draw.

Amy LePeilbet had the best opportunity of the night for either team, sending he 77th-minute header off the crossbar. The ball bounced back into play and pin-balled off of several players before being cleared away from danger.

FC Kansas City had several other half-chances throughout the match, but nothing overly troubling for Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Leigh Ann Robinson’s cross-turned-shot in the 21st minute was tipped over the bar by Harris, and the Washington goalkeeper calmly parried away Heather O’Reilly’s close-range shot in the 59th minute to keep the match scoreless.

Seattle Reign FC clinched a second straight NWSL Shield on Wednesday with a victory over Boston. FC Kansas City, the Chicago Red Stars and the Washington Spirit have all clinched playoff berths but all currently have 29 pts. with 10 days left in the regular season.

Emotions ran high before Thursday’s match as FC Kansas City, playing its final regular-season home match of the season, retired midfielder Lauren Holiday’s No. 12. The entire FC Kansas City roster and staff joined Holiday’s family for a pregame ceremony, where longtime friend and U.S. and Kansas City teammate Amy Rodriguez fought off tears as she discussed Holiday’s retirement.

Holiday announced last month that she will retire at the end of the year to focus on her family and a life of service. She scored the game-winning goal in the United States 5-2 win over Japan on July 5 in the World Cup final. Holiday also won two Olympic gold medals and was the championship-game MVP in last year’s NWSL title season for FC Kansas City. She also won the league MVP award in 2013.


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