The Washington Spirit will host its first-ever home semifinal tonight as the team looks to beat the Chicago Red Stars and advance from the semifinals for the first time. It's the second consecutive match between the two sides, after a loss in Chicago loss last Saturday meant the Spirit missed out on the NWSL Shield. This is the Spirit's third game this season against Chicago, and both times the home team has won.
This is the Spirit's third straight semifinal appearance, but the club lost the two previous ones away in Seattle. 2016 was the Spirit's best-ever season finish, but Washington only managed to win one of its last four games. The Spirit have only lost one home game this year, and set an NWSL record for fewest goals allowed at home, but they'll need to counter some recent negative momentum.
Against the Red Stars, the Spirit struggled to defend Chicago's flank players. Offensively, Washington was unable to frequently feed Crystal Dunn the ball. U.S. women's national team forward Christen Press was a constant threat on offense for Chicago, and Red Stars midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo had a good showing as well. Forward Stephanie McCaffrey didn't play for Chicago due to a right ankle sprain but is listed as probable for tonight's match. If she starts, she will provide yet another challenge for the Spirit's backline.
The Spirit have tried four different center back combinations in the six games since the Olympic break and curiously, Megan Oyster - who previously had started every game since the start of 2015 - has only started once since the Olympic break. Washington posted 8 clean sheets in the 14 games before the Olympic break, but don't have one since, conceding nine goals in that span. Granted the Spirit have had a tough schedule lately, but the lack of defensive stability might be hurting them further.
Location: Maryland Soccerplex (Boyds, Md.)
Kick-off time: 8:00pm Eastern
Available TV: Fox Sports 1
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer 2Go app
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com
The gamethread for tonight's match will be posted 90 minutes before kickoff.