After ending the season on a negative note, losing the last two games and missing out on the NWSL Shield, the Washington Spirit face the Chicago Red Stars tonight in the first NWSL semifinal of 2016. The season series between the sides is split, with Chicago winning just last week. Previously, though, the Spirit have largely had the advantage in the series, particularly at the Maryland Soccerplex.
Projected lineups: For the Red Stars, this isn't that hard. Their lineup has been fairly consistent. The main question is whether Stephanie McCaffrey will start since she didn't play last match due to a right ankle sprain.
Chicago (442): Naeher; Gilliland, Johnson, Johnston, Short; Comeau, Colaprico, DiBernardo, Huerta; Press, McCaffrey
The Spirit's lineup is much more uncertain. Estefania Banini played her first minutes last week since undergoing knee surgery and Cheyna Williams is listed as probably with a left knee sprain. On defense, the Spirit keep shuffling things around and it's unclear how that will change after the 3-1 loss to Chicago last week.
Washington (433): Wys; Dydasco, Zadorsky, Johnson, Krieger; Huster, Nairn, Lohman; Matheson, Stengel, Dunn
Match Previews: Here's our preview, which is focused on the Spirit's recent defensive record. SB Nation has another preview which includes a prediction of weather/other delays which seems sadly accurate. Excelle Sports' preview takes a broader look at the Spirit's season and the site has a similar preview on the Red Stars.
What are you drinking: I will be at the Soccerplex so I'll be drinking water.
Prediction: It's going to be really close. Both teams have dangerous midfields but Chicago has a stronger goalkeeper and lately, a stingier defense. However, the Spirit tend to perform better at home and Crystal Dunn played well (despite getting little service) against Chicago last week. I'm thinking this will go to extra time and the Spirit will pull out a 2-1 win.
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