The Houston Dash played for the draw which would have extended their season, and they ultimately fell short in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. Houston’s 1-0 loss to the Washington Spirit eliminated the 2020 Challenge Cup champions from this year’s playoffs and allowed the North Carolina Courage — league champions in 2018 and 2019 — to sneak into the field in the sixth and final playoff spot.
The playoff field is now set. Here is what happened on Sunday, the final day of regular-season play in the 2021 National Women’s Soccer League season.
Washington Spirit 1, Houston Dash 0
The Skinny: Houston needed only a draw to advance thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage the Dash held over the Courage. With that in mind and the game still scoreless, Dash head coach James Clarkson brought on defender Megan Oyster for winger Jasmyne Spencer with 20 minutes to play, switching to a five-back. Clarkson said after the match that the change was always the plan (assuming the teams were tied), but it backfired and he takes full responsibility.
It backfired at the hands of Spirit rookie Trinity Rodman, whose goal in the 76th minute not only eliminated Houston, but boosted the Spirit into the No. 3 seed for the playoffs, securing a home game against the sixth-seeded Courage in the first round next Sunday.
One Key Moment: Trinity Rodman’s goal was everything — for the Spirit, the Dash, and the Courage. She has to be the Rookie of the Year, right?
Inside the Game: Houston played direct from the start and looked disconnected in the final third, from the five offside calls to some errant touches which otherwise would have seen players get in behind. It was a disjointed effort from Houston, which has been a theme. The Dash ended the season being shut out in three straight games following a 4-1 win over the Courage on Oct. 10.
Washington combined well throughout the match and found success through vertical balls which broke the Dash’s lines — particularly a front six which looked out of sync with its back line. That led to Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, and Andi Sullivan — among others — combining with inside-outside combinations.
- Washington Spirit — Trinity Rodman (Sam Staab), 76′
NJ/NY Gotham FC 1, Racing Louisville FC 1
The Skinny: Gotham and Racing played to a 1-1 draw for the second time in four days, a pair of results which contributed to Gotham missing out on hosting a playoff game.
Carli Lloyd opened the scoring for Gotham eight minutes after halftime in her final NWSL regular-season game and final Gotham home game before retirement. Elizabeth Eddy picked out Lloyd in the box, and the longtime United States international was left unmarked from six yards out.
Cece Kizer equalized for Racing Louisville in the 69th minute, slamming her penalty shot into the upper corner. Allie Long was whistled for the penalty kick after referee Karen Abt determined that Long handled the ball.
The Houston-Washington game ended while Gotham-Louisville was at halftime, which meant Gotham had already been locked into the No. 5 seed
One Key Moment: Cece Kizer’s PK was clinical.
Inside the Game: Louisville applied high pressure early, which was Racing’s recipe for success in the second half against Gotham on Thursday. Emily Fox left the game after 16 minutes with an apparent injury, which impacted Louisville’s press, particularly on that left side.
Gotham’s inability to consistently finish off games down the stretch has to be a concern heading into the playoffs. They took only 3 points from their final three games — two against Louisville and one against Kansas City, the bottom two teams in the league. With two games in hand on the field earlier in the month, Gotham had a shot to finish as high as second and get a first-round bye in the playoffs. Instead, they finished fifth and head to Chicago.
- NJ/NY Gotham FC — Carli Lloyd (Elizabeth Eddy), 53′
- Racing Louisville FC — Cece Kizer (PK), 69′
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