The Washington Spirit were dealt two crushing blows on NWSL Decision Day.
First, star forward Trinity Rodman received a red card in the club’s regular-season finale against the North Carolina Courage. Then, moments later, Courage forward Tyler Lussi scored what would be the only goal in the 1-0 decision, ending the Spirit’s postseason hopes.
Rodman initially was given a yellow card after tripping North Carolina’s Denise O’Sullivan from behind, but after a VAR review it was elevated to a red card. As a result, Rodman exited the match in the 23rd minute, and the 21-year-old also would have been unavailable for the Spirit’s first game in the 2023 NWSL playoffs. Rodman broke out into tears after the referee showed her the red card.
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The twin disappointments marked the end of what had been an encouraging stretch for Rodman: She scored two goals for the U.S. women’s national team in friendly matches in late September, and then scored the game-winning goal in the Spirit’s 2-1 win over the Kansas City Current on Oct. 1.
That the burst came after Rodman went scoreless at the 2023 World Cup was an encouraging sign for the up-and-coming star.
“I do feel like there was a type of freedom. I don’t know where that came from,” she told Uproxx about the USWNT’s September camp. “The World Cup obviously didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I do think it was a learning experience for everybody. … I think this camp there was a lot more trust, communication and just willingness to play for each other. And if things weren’t going right, we fixed it really fast.”
The Spirit played the OL Reign to a 0-0 draw on Oct. 6, setting up the playoff-deciding matchup Sunday with the Courage. After Rodman’s penalty, which appeared to be an accident, the Spirit let down their guard, and Lussi and the Courage capitalized.With the win, North Carolina clinched a postseason berth, setting up a quarterfinal clash with Gotham FC.