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Return of Canadian Olympians bolsters first-place Washington Spirit

Spirit attacker Diana Matheson poses with Canadian supporters after winning the bronze medal two weeks ago in Sao Paulo. (Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Washington Spirit vs. Western New York Flash

Where: Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Records: Spirit 11-3-2, 35 points; Flash 8-5-3, 27 points.

Live stream: NWSL’s YouTube channel.

WELCOME BACK: Three Canadians return to the mix after winning an Olympic bronze medal in Brazil. The club will honor GK Stephanie Labbe, D Shelina Zadorsky and F-MF Diana Matheson in a pregame ceremony. After a two-month absence, the trio resumed training this week and reunited with two U.S. Olympians, D Ali Krieger and F Crystal Dunn, who have played two games and one NWSL match, respectively, since the Americans’ stunning quarterfinal elimination.

PLAYOFF BRINK: With four regular season matches remaining, the Spirit needs one point to clinch a postseason berth for the third consecutive year. The club has larger aims, however: Victories on Saturday and then Wednesday against the visiting Seattle Reign would all but secure the Supporters’ Shield for finishing first in the 10-team standings. The top two teams will host semifinal games Sept. 30 or Oct. 1. The final will be Oct. 9 in Houston.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: The Spirit has won three in a row, six of seven and, since a 4-1 defeat at Portland, gained 22 of a possible 30 points from 10 matches. The club has conceded 14 goals, tied with Chicago for the fewest in the league, and its plus-12 goal differential is first. Labbe is tied for the NWSL lead in shutouts (five). Argentine F Estefania Banini, the Spirit’s top scorer, with five goals, is out for several weeks recovering from knee surgery.

NEWS FLASH: Fourth-place Western New York is the most prolific scorer in the NWSL, with 31 goals, five more than the next club, Washington. Fs Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald are atop the league scoring race with eight and seven goals, respectively. McDonald is tied for first in assists with six, and Williams has five. Four players returned from the Olympics: U.S. alternate MF Samantha Mewis, Canadian GK Sabrina D’Angelo, Australian D Alanna Kennedy and New Zealand D Abby Erceg. The Spirit won the first meeting between the teams, 3-0, in April in Rochester, N.Y.