Thanks to the wonders of NWSL scheduling, the Washington Spirit will face OL Reign for the third time this month. One of those was a Challenge Cup semifinal, but the first was the Spirit’s regular season home opener. The good news is that the Spirit won both encounters, whether there’s any bad news depends on how strongly you believe in the law of averages.
From a real life standpoint, former Spirit player Rose Lavelle was interviewed on the Attacking Third podcast and spoke about the budding rivalry with Washington. The USWNT midfielder noted it was good for the league to have non-local rivalries grow organically, but also hinted at the team’s deep frustration at how recent matchups have gone.
To be fair, the difference between the sides has been razor thin. Some madness by Ashley Sanchez propelled the Spirit into last season’s championship game ahead of OL Reign, this season’s Spirit home opener required another late goal (this one by Ashley Hatch via Trinity Rodman), and the Challenge Cup final was a wild 9-8 penalty shootout win (though a missed handball call in the final seconds would have given the Reign a chance to win in normal time).
This next iteration will surely see Reign eager to shake the Spirit off via a real-life, and psychological, win. However, after losing to Angel City a week ago and drawing 1-1 with the Thorns midweek, the Spirit will be desperate to get back to winning ways against a familiar foe.
Location: Lumen Field, Seattle, WA
Kickoff time: 6:00pm ET
Referee: Samantha Martinez
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Paramount+, Twitch (int’l)
OL Reign team news: OUT - None; QUESTIONABLE - None
Washington Spirit team news: OUT - Dorian Bailey (cheekbone), Jordan Baggett (concussion), Averie Collins (knee), Tori Huster (SEI - left lower leg), Tara McKeown (foot), Gaby Vincent (calf); QUESTIONABLE - None
An extremely encouraging development is that both USWNT stars Kelley O’Hara and Andi Sullivan have been removed from the report after previously being listed as questionable ahead of recent matches. O’Hara’s been dealing with hamstring tightness that will surely still need to be monitored, particularly as summer approaches and temperatures rise. Sullivan, however, had been battling an annoying calf issue so it’s a positive sign that she’s off the report completely.
Though players stepping in for both have done well, it’s difficult to fully replace veteran stars with unique skill sets and fits within the team. O’Hara has been missed wide, as she often finds space in attack while being aware enough to sense threats and recover to good defensive positions. O’Hara is also a vocal leader and organizer of the team, and head coach Kris Ward credits O’Hara as the catalyst to the Spirit’s ability to turn around results midgame.
Sullivan quite simply is one of the best midfielders in the United States. Her awareness, passing, movement, toughness and technique allows players to rely on her in a variety of scenarios in defense and attack.
While it may be too soon to see both in the XI, if their recoveries continue to trend in positive directions it shouldn’t be long before the Spirit are whole again.