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In a game that mirrored their season, Washington Spirit lose grip on playoffs

Spirit lose 1-0 to North Carolina Courage to finish in eighth place

(Photo Copyright Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

After falling to the North Carolina Courage by a 1-0 scoreline in their final game of the season, the Washington Spirit have officially missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. They haven’t had a postseason run since they lifted the NWSL championship in 2021, and they have only won 10 regular-season games in that stretch.

Heading into the regular-season finale, Washington was in control of its destiny and would have made the playoffs with a win. But things started looking bleak early on, when Trinity Rodman was shown a red card in the 23rd minute. Shortly after, North Carolina’s Tyler Lussi put the Courage on the board, and Washington never found the equalizer.

Without Rodman on the pitch, the Spirit’s attack struggled. That’s not surprising given how heavily the Spirit’s system relied on Rodman this season. Their go-to tactics involved lots of direct play, long balls and almost no progressive build-up. Many of those progressive passes had Rodman as the target, and she made a team-leading 186 progressive receptions on the year. When you also consider that Rodman averaged the most touches in the attacking third per 90 minutes of all Spirit players in 2023 and scored the second-most goals, it’s obvious that the red card eliminated much of Washington’s attacking strategy.

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