Close to elimination, the Washington Spirit face the Chicago Red Stars tonight as Chicago tries to turn around from three consecutive losses and make the playoffs. The first and second place finishers are pretty much set, but there’s a tight four team race for the final two playoff spots. Chicago and Orlando each have 29 points going into this weekend, while Seattle has 27 and Sky Blue 26. The Spirit, on 16 points, are in a much tougher spot: they cannot afford to lose more than once in their final six games, while also needing the bar for entry into the playoffs to stay below 35 points. A loss today would make it impossible for the Spirit to catch the Red Stars, and could even eliminate Washington entirely if Orlando beats FCKC earlier in the day.
This Monday, the Spirit sent midfielder Kristie Mewis to Chicago in a trade for a first round draft pick and then picked up former Red Stars holding midfielder Morgan Proffitt off the waiver wire. Both could play today, adding an element of intrigue to this one.
Key player: Estelle Johnson
Shelina Zadorsky and Kassey Kallman are both out this week due to injuries so Whitney Church and Estelle Johnson will likely be the center backs. Back in her natural position after spending most of the season at right back, Johnson will need to help the Spirit’s backline improve over last Saturday’s performance.
Last week against North Carolina, the Spirit controlled the first half, but two defensive mistakes meant two goals for the Courage. Johnson exited after the first half because she was feeling sick, but is not on the injury report this week. Generally the Spirit’s defensive problems haven’t been the fault of the backline alone but Johnson is essential to the Spirit holding Chicago tight.
Location: Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, MD)
Kickoff time: 7:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4-3-3) - Stephanie Labbe; Alyssa Kleiner, Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church, Caprice Dydasco; Meggie Dougherty Howard, Tori Huster, Estefania Banini; Havana Solaun, Cheyna Williams, Mallory Pugh
Bench: DiDi Haracic, Morgan Proffitt, Cali Farquharson, Arielle Ship, Lindsay Agnew
Shelina Zadorsky and Kassey Kallman are both out due to injuries. Kallman has a concussion and Zadorsky has a right knee bone bruise.
Projected Chicago starting 11: (4-3-1-2) - Alyssa Naeher; Arin Gilliland, Samantha Johnson, Katie Naughton, Casey Short; Alyssa Mautz, Julie Ertz, Danielle Colaprico; Vanessa DiBernardo; Sofia Huerta, Christen Press
Referee: Amber O’Connor
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Go90 for US viewers, NWSLsoccer.com for international fans
What do we have to say about it?: I answered 4 questions over at Hot Time in Old Town that will be up around 4pm.
What are you drinking?: I’ll be in the press box so water!
In other news, it looks like Steph Labbe’s dog will be walking out with her today.
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