The Washington Spirit is coming off of the biggest win of their season, but they have no time to rest on their laurels. Tonight against the Orlando Pride, Washington has a chance to start their first winning streak of 2017, but it won’t come easy. With Marta and Alex Morgan starting to find some form, the Pride have the firepower to take down anyone in the NWSL. On the other hand, the Spirit have never lost to the Pride, and that’s a run they need to maintain to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
It’s also the rubber match between these two teams, who have played out two draws that followed a certain pattern. The last time the Spirit went down to Florida, they held a 1-0 lead only for a splendid goal from Danica Evans to give Orlando a late draw. At the Soccerplex, Mallory Pugh had to convert a 90th minute penalty to allow Washington to snag a 2-2 draw.
Key player: Tori Huster
With just two days between games, Washington needs to control the tempo of this game to keep themselves fresh. The Pride have plenty of team speed in their attacks, and the more the Spirit have to chase, the more likely that’s going to be a factor. Huster had a standout game against the Pride at the Soccerplex a few weeks ago, and she’ll have to be just as influential once again.
Location: Orlando City Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (442) - Stephanie Labbe; Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church, Kassey Kallman, Alyssa Kleiner; Havana Solaun, Tori Huster, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Mallory Pugh; Kristie Mewis, Arielle Ship
Bench: DiDi Haracic, Shelina Zadorsky, Caprice Dydasco, Lindsay Agnew, Cheyna Williams, Cali Farquharson
Pugh is back from USWNT duty, and with the short gap between road games, that will help in terms of fresh legs as much as adding a big name back into the lineup. Normally Dydasco would start, but I suspect that we’ll see a bit of rotation there just to prevent fatigue - remember, Dydasco has only recently returned from her recovery from a torn ACL last year - from costing the Spirit in what is a pretty important game if they’re going to catch up to the pack.
Look for Williams to come into this one fairly early in the second half for Solaun, as Jim Gabarra has Saturday’s home game against Boston to think about as well. Line Sigvardsen Jensen and Yanara Aedo are new injuries on the ever-present injury report, while Estefania Banini was only upgraded to doubtful for this one.
Projected Orlando starting 11: (4231) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Camila, Ali Krieger, Toni Pressley, Steph Catley; Alanna Kennedy, Dani Weatherholt; Jasmyne Spencer, Marta, Chioma Ubogagu; Alex Morgan
We could see Jamia Fields in on the right flank, or possibly Maddy Evans replacing Weatherholt in central midfield. Kristen Edmonds could also slot in there, or at right back depending on Tom Sermanni’s plans for rotation.
Available TV: None
Available streaming: NWSLsoccer.com, Go90.com, and the Go90 app
What are you drinking?: Well, the transfer window and this game being on short rest has turned my brain into mush, so who knows? If I have time, I’ll go get a growler filled up. If not, maybe some Michter’s Rye on the rocks.
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