Just as the Capitals were allowing fans back into their home arena on Tuesday night, across town, the NWSL’s Washington Spirit were doing the same. The Spirit welcomed its home crowd back in the stands for the first time since 2019. Over 2,000 fans dotted the stands of Audi Field in socially-distanced groups as the Spirit faced off in a scoreless draw against NJ/NY Gotham FC (formerly Sky Blue FC).
The match was the Spirit’s final game in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, a tournament whose inaugural iteration was played entirely inside a bubble due to the pandemic. After missing several of their regular players due to international call-ups, the Spirit ended fourth out of five teams in the Eastern Division.
Tuesday night’s game had several strong chances, with the Spirit outshooting Gotham 19 to 13. But while the Spirit did not come out of the game with the win they wanted, having home fans back in the stands was a momentous enough occasion to celebrate.
Spirit fans had the opportunity to watch in-person, for the first time, the team’s rising star, forward Trinity Rodman. The 18-year old made history in her debut two weeks ago, becoming the youngest American to score in the NWSL.
The daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, Trinity was the Spirit’s 2021 first round pick (2nd overall). The youngster is already making her impact on the field with a goal, two assists, and some fancy footwork.
So much fun to watch. pic.twitter.com/2oxX8vz3aa
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) April 21, 2021
After the game, the rookie stayed on the pitch to greet fans. At one point, Rodman and fellow forward Ashley Sanchez climbed over the boards and scaled several rungs of the stands to get a photo with a contingent of fans, as head coach Richie Burke looked on with a comedic wagging finger.
Spirit captain Andi Sullivan also stayed behind after the match to make a lap around the stadium and say hello to fans, which included her 93-year old grandfather.
Up-close, the cherry blossom detail on the hometown captain’s armband paid special homage to DC.
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) April 28, 2021
The Spirit released their season schedule this week, along with the news that the team will be splitting their 12 home games between DC’s Audi Field and Segra Field in Leesburg, Va. The team historically called the Maryland SoccerPlex home, but were in the process of shifting before the canceled 2020 season.
The Spirit’s next home game will be May 26, at Segra Field.
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