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Washington Spirit starts playoff push against Reign FC at Audi Field

Washington, DC. - Saturday, August 24, 2019: The Washington Spirit defeated the Orlando Pride 2-1 in a NWSL match at Audi Field. (Courtesy of Washington Spirit)
Washington Spirit return to Audi Field to push for the playoffs. (Washington Spirit)

WASHINGTON — The Washington Spirit is expected to draw another full-stadium crowd to Audi Field Saturday as it makes a push for the NWSL playoffs against Reign FC.

It is Washington’s penultimate home game with six games overall remaining. The matchup between the Spirit (7-7-4, 25 points) and the Reign (8-5-6, 30 points) is a crucial game for both teams fighting for one of four playoff spots in the league. The Reign is one spot above sixth-place Washington.

The Spirit’s return to the nation’s capital also coincides with the end of an unplanned three-week break for the team. A week after the Spirit hosted the Orlando Pride at Audi Field Aug. 24 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,871, the teams were set for a rematch a week later. But with the impending landfall of Hurricane Dorian, the NWSL suspended the match until Oct. 5.

The postponed game, followed by an international break, allowed the Spirit to regenerate before taking on Reign FC. Before the break, the Spirit went 1-1-1 in a stretch of three games in eight days.

Washington face a depleted Reign FC, who is missing eight players due to injury. However, the Reign will have 2019 World Cup Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe, who came on in the 72nd minute of the Reign’s 3-1 win over the Pride. Rapinoe was sidelined for two months following the United States women’s national team World Cup victory.

Meanwhile, the Spirit will get reinforcements from its own World Cup talent. Forward Mallory Pugh is poised to return to the field Saturday after dealing with a hip injury that kept her out of the Spirit’s previous Audi Field game. She trained unrestricted this week.

Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle will sit out for the third game in a row with a head injury. Despite Lavelle’s strong desire to return to the field, coach Richie Burke told the Washington Post that Lavelle’s health comes first.

Lavelle played through an apparent head injury in the Spirit’s 3-1 loss to Portland Thorns on Aug. 17.

Still basking in the glow of the team’s record-breaking sellout at Audi Field, the Spirit has sold more than 15,000 tickets as of Saturday morning.

The team will hand out 15,000 rally towels and 7,500 thundersticks to the first group of fans. Washington is also offering 5,000 reusable water bottles to fans “who stick around for the entire match,” according to the team’s press release.

With game time of 7:30 p.m. ET, gates will begin to open two hours prior to kickoff.

An issue during the Spirit’s previous game at Audi Field was a long line to enter the stadium with gates open only one hour prior to kickoff. Gate A will open at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday with gates B and C following suit at 6 p.m.

Match information

When: Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Audi Field — Washington, D.C.

Streaming: : Monumental Sports Network, Yahoo (domestic), NWSLsoccer.com (international)

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