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NWSL declares Spirit’s postponed game at Portland a forfeit

SB Nation logo SB Nation 9/16/2021 Jason Anderson
© Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The NWSL announced today that the Washington Spirit’s previously postponed road game against the Portland Thorns has been declared a forfeit, with the result going down as a 3-0 Thorns win per FIFA guidelines. The Spirit were found to be in violation of the league’s Covid-19 protocols for a second time, and were fined $25,000 as a result.

As of the publication of this article, the Spirit had not made a statement on the issue beyond an email echoing the NWSL’s press release on the forfeit.

The Spirit initially traveled to Portland for a Saturday, September 4 match against the league leaders, arriving Thursday and training on Friday. Black and Red United has learned that the Spirit didn’t receive the news that players had tested positive until after that Friday training session. According to sources, NWSL initially decided to cancel the game that evening, only to pause their decision until the next day, at which point they did follow through on a postponement.

Earlier this week, The Equalizer reported that the breaches of protocol included not isolating/testing an unvaccinated player who left the Spirit’s market and traveling to Portland without confirmed PCR tests.

Since then, the Spirit had a home game on September 12 against OL Reign, but were found to have broken the league’s medical protocols on multiple occasions during the week between the Portland game and the Reign’s visit to Audi Field. NWSL announced a forfeit of that second game on September 11.

The forfeits may well have a major impact on the Spirit’s playoff hopes. Washington remains in sixth place — the final NWSL playoff spot — with six games to play. While they have a game in hand over most of the teams ahead of them, they have one fewer match left compared to Gotham FC, who are one point behind them. The twin 3-0 scorelines also knock their goal difference down from +1 to -5, a potentially important development in a postseason chase that may well come down to tiebreakers. It also increases Portland’s lead at the top of the table to six points.

This latest news comes amid a series of calamities for the Spirit off the field. The club initially said that former head coach Richie Burke was being reassigned to the front office due to an unspecified health concern just days before an explosive Washington Post report detailed extensive allegations of verbal abuse. The Spirit later declared that Burke was suspended pending an investigation that is still ongoing.

Washington also has an ongoing power struggle between Steve Baldwin and Y. Michele Kang, who per the Washington Post each own 35% of the club. Baldwin was reportedly going to sell his share to Kang, giving her the controlling stake, only to change his mind. The dispute has reached the point that the NWSL has, according to The Athletic, temporarily sidelined the club in league governance.

Washington is off this weekend due to the international window. They are scheduled to return to play on Sunday, September 26, hosting Kansas City NWSL at Segra Field.

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