After being officially eliminated from playoff contention last Saturday, the Washington Spirit start the next phase of their season tonight in a game against the first place North Carolina Courage. North Carolina and Washington met recently in North Carolina, where the Courage beat the Spirit 2-0.
That game was much closer than the scoreline suggests. Washington largely contained the potent Courage offense and had the ball in the final third often, but couldn’t translate that into quality shots on goal. That made two defensive mistakes in the second half costly. Tonight, the Spirit are looking to spoil North Carolina’s bid to clinch a playoff spot (the Courage clinch with a win).
Aside from the difficulty of playing the best team in the league, Washington is playing on short rest and faces an even quicker turnaround before flying cross-country to face the Portland Thorns. North Carolina, meanwhile, didn’t play this weekend after the league wisely opted to postpone their game against the Houston Dash due to Hurricane Harvey.
Key player: Mallory Pugh
A common theme this season has been the Spirit controlling a game or frequently being in the final third but not getting in the box often enough and not getting many shots on goal. Against Chicago last Saturday, the Spirit only got one shot on goal. And in North Carolina, the Spirit dominated most of the first half without anything to show for it.
One change that helped on Saturday was moving Mallory Pugh out wide, a position she has said is more familiar to her. Once Pugh was on the flanks, she was more creative and the Spirit started to look more threatening. Pugh struck a well-placed free kick that Cheyna Williams headed in for the Spirit’s only goal of the game.
Location: Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, MD)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4-3-3) - DiDi Haracic, Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church, Shelina Zadorsky, Caprice Dydasco; Meggie Dougherty Howard, Tori Huster, Estefania Banini; Havana Solaun, Cheyna Williams, Mallory Pugh
Bench: Kelsey Wys, Alyssa Kleiner, Morgan Proffitt, Cali Farquharson, Lindsay Agnew, Francisca Ordega
Arielle Ship tore her right ACL in Saturday’s game, while Kassey Kallman remains out due to a concussion. Stephanie Labbe won’t be at the game because of an excused absence. Wys is doubtful as she continues to recover from ACL surgery, but will in all likelihood be Haracic’s back-up. She was removed from the Disabled List before Saturday’s loss to Chicago.
Projected North Carolina starting 11: (4-2-3-1) - Katelyn Rowland; Taylor Smith, Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg, Jaelene Hinkle; McCall Zerboni, Samantha Mewis; Kristen Hamilton, Denise O’Sullivan, Ashley Hatch; Lynn Williams
Referee: Amber O’Connor
Available TV: None
What are you drinking?: I want to get a frozen lemonade from Chick-fil-A before the game and then water during the game.
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