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NWSL Final Pits Washington Spirit Against Chicago Red Stars

Plus, the Major League Soccer playoffs start today.

Today, we reach the end of a trying year for the National Women’s Soccer League. Yet, while league and team leadership became mired in a mess of their own making, the players and the on-field action shone through the grime.

No team epitomizes this truth more than the Washington Spirit. Coach Richie Burke was suspended in August and then fired in September for allegations of verbal and emotional abuse of players, and majority owner Steve Baldwin plans to sell his stake in the team. Yet amid the scandal, the Spirit have made a run to today’s championship, led by Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch and Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman.

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NWSL final: Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington Spirit

trinity-rodman

Trinity Rodman

These two underdogs both pulled off upsets in their semifinal matches last Sunday. The Red Stars took out the top-seeded Portland Thorns 2–0 while the Spirit came from behind to beat OL Reign 2–1.

Chicago forward Mallory Pugh finished second in MVP voting. She missed the semifinal after entering COVID-19 protocol, but she was cleared Friday and will play in the championship game. Washington will lean on striker Hatch, who finished fourth in MVP voting, as well as Rodman, who created 35 scoring opportunities for the Spirit this season.

Rodman became the youngest player drafted in the NWSL’s history earlier this year, and she delivered on her potential, notching six goals and six assists in the regular season, plus a goal in the semifinal victory.

12 p.m. ET, CBS, watch on fuboTV

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LINEUP

  • College football: Michigan State at Ohio State | The No. 4 Buckeyes’ offense leads the country in yards per game (550.0) and points per game (46.3), led by redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud. The No. 7 Spartans have a Heisman candidate of their own in running back Kenneth Walker III, but they’ll need their defense to step up. 12 p.m. ET, ESPN, watch on fuboTV
  • Men’s college basketball: Villanova at Tennessee | No. 5 Villanova and No. 17 Tennessee will face off in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament in Uncasville, Conn. The winner will face either No. 6 Purdue or No. 18 North Carolina in the final at 1 p.m. tomorrow. 1 p.m. ET, ESPNews, watch on fuboTV
  • Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs | The Penguins stopped their free fall with an emphatic 6–0 win Thursday against the Canadiens, but the Leafs present a much tougher test. Toronto has won its last five games and 10 of its last 11. 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network, watch on fuboTV
  • Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta Hawks | The Hornets come into this game with a winning record. The Hawks, who competed in the Eastern Conference finals last season, are clawing their way out of an early-season whole. Still, Trae Young & Co. have won three straight, including a 120–100 win against the defending champion Bucks in which Young scored 42 points. 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV, watch on fuboTV

HIDDEN GEM

MLS playoffs: Vancouver Whitecaps at Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City tumbled to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference after losing their last three matches of the regular season, including a 1–0 loss to Real Salt Lake in the season finale in which they gave up the only goal in second-half stoppage time. (The defeat also included a dubious no-call on a potential handball by Real Salt Lake, which would have awarded Sporting a penalty kick.)

Sporting Kansas City will look to shake off the disappointment as the team hosts No. 6 seed Vancouver in the first round of the postseason, which kicks off today.

5 p.m. ET, Bally Sports KC/Bally Sports Midwest, watch on fuboTV

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