Washington Spirit on brink of NWSL playoffs after dramatic victory over Chicago

(NWSL) (NWSL)

The Washington Spirit was the worst team in the National Women’s Soccer League during the inaugural 2013 season, winning just three of 22 matches and, at one point, enduring a 13-game winless streak. A year later, the Spirit is on the brink of qualifying for the playoffs.

On Saturday night, in a critical match against another postseason contender, midfielder Yael Averbuch scored a sensational goal in the last minute of stoppage time as Washington defeated the Chicago Red Stars, 2-1, before 3,102 at Maryland SoccerPlex. The Spirit swept the three-game season series, the first tiebreaker in case the teams finish level on points.

Washington (10-8-4, 34 points) is third in a nine-team league that will send four clubs to the playoffs and created distance with fifth-place Chicago (7-7-7, 28). With a Spirit victory in one of its last two matches — at first-place Seattle next Saturday or Aug. 16 against visiting Sky Blue FC — or a Chicago defeat in one of its final three games, Washington would clinch.

For the second time in four days, the Spirit came from behind in the second half, equalizing on Christine Nairn‘s goal in the 48th minute and going ahead when Averbuch drilled a 25-yard one-timer to the upper left corner with about 30 seconds remaining in the fourth minute of added time for her first goal of the year.

To watch the goal sequence, skip ahead to the 2:04:40 mark on the embedded video:

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff · August 2, 2014