The Washington Spirit, coming off a month of June that saw them pick up seven points out of a possible nine and concede just one goal, are likely the favorites in today’s NWSL clash against the Boston Breakers. After a good start to the season, Boston has fallen to the bottom of the standings, and injuries have hit them extremely hard in the last few weeks. In June, the Breakers scored just once in four games, going 0W-1D-3L. On top of that, they come into this game having just played Wednesday night in Houston.
However, the NWSL is known to be a wildly unpredictable league, and last year’s woeful Breakers team managed to hold a top-of-the-table Spirit team to a 1-1 draw when Washington went north. Boston is a lot better this year, and they’ll be desperate for a win, so the Spirit - who are still winless on the road, mind you - need to assume they’ll be seeing the very best version of the Breakers today.
Key player: Francisca Ordega
The Spirit’s top goalscorer is red hot right now, and on the road against a tired team, Washington needs her to keep it going. Ordega’s speed and physicality are qualities that teams on short rest really don’t want to deal with. Look for the recently effective game plan of the Spirit looking to draw their opponent forward before playing through balls to a speedy front line to be the recipe once again. With Ordega being an underrated creator for others (she has 10 key passes this season to go with her 4 goals), if the Spirit can send her into space behind the defense on a regular basis, they’ll be on course for another win.
Location: Jordan Field (Boston, MA)
Kickoff time: 4:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Stephanie Labbe; Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church, Shelina Zadorsky, Kassey Kallman; Meggie Dougherty Howard, Tori Huster, Kristie Mewis; Havana Solaun, Francisca Ordega, Mallory Pugh
Bench: DiDi Haracic, Alyssa Kleiner, Caprice Dydasco, Lindsay Agnew, Cheyna Williams, Arielle Ship and one of Estefania Banini or Yanara Aedo
Pugh, after missing time due to an ankle sprain suffered during the warm-up of the USWNT’s last friendly, is the major question mark here. She’s been training this week, and if she’s fit to start, she’ll get the nod on the left. If not, Williams will keep her spot. This is a luxury problem to have.
Left back is a spot to watch going forward, as the Spirit have a defense-first option in Kallman and a very attacking option in Kleiner. Since this game is away (and against her old club), look for Kallman to get the nod today.
Finally, with Line Sigvardsen Jensen away with Denmark for Euro 2017, the Spirit will almost certainly give a spot in the squad to either Banini or Aedo. Both have only been back in the US long enough to go through one training session, but otherwise Washington would go into this game with a short bench.
The Breakers have been short-handed lately, and it only gets worse with former Spirit midfielder Amanda Da Costa joining Portugal’s Euro 2017 squad. Rose Lavelle, a recent starter for the USWNT, is out with a hamstring strain. Goalkeeper Abby Smith has had a good 2017, but she’s out with a quadriceps issue. Normal starting center back Christen Westphal is also out with a concussion.
That leaves Matt Beard with few options in the back or in midfield, and as a result it looks like no fewer than five field players - King, Oyster, Salem, Andrews, and Dowie - who played the full 90 last Saturday and this past Wednesday in Houston will have to start again. It also adds some real uncertainty here, as Emilie Haavi could start over Purce on the left, and Tiffany Weimer (one of four ex-Spirit players mentioned here) could also see a start just to add fresh legs to a team that scored just one goal in four June games. If Chapman (coming off of an injury) can’t go back to back, then Brooke Elby will probably fill in at left back.
Former Spirit striker Katie Stengel was quickly picked up by Boston, but she won’t be suiting up for today’s game:
Stengel won't be available for tomorrow's Breakers game against the Spirit. #NWSL— thrace (@thrace) June 30, 2017
Available TV: None
What are you drinking?: With today’s blizzard of games, I will probably not be charging into Saturday on a reasonable night’s sleep. Leaning towards iced coffee for this one.
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