In their third game this week, the Washington Spirit take on the second place Portland Thorns in Portland this afternoon. Kickoff has been moved twenty minutes earlier, to 3:30pm, because of a heat advisory affecting Portland today. Temperatures could be above 90 degrees by the final whistle. With a win today and a Sky Blue loss or tie tomorrow, Portland would be the second NWSL team to clinch a playoff spot. North Carolina clinched after their Wednesday game against the Spirit.
Key player: Meggie Dougherty Howard
Since the start of the season the Spirit have been hard-hit by injuries but this week the problem is particularly acute. In the past week, forward Arielle Ship tore her ACL, center back Estelle Johnson tore her left IT band, and Francisca Ordega is back out with a left hamstring sprain. To make matters worse, Steph Labbe wasn’t available on Wednesday and won’t be available today.
Washington’s backline is particularly impacted. Labbe is out, Johnson is out and two other center backs, Shelina Zadorsky and Kassey Kallman aren’t at full health. Zadorsky got a right knee bone bruise two weeks ago and was forced to come on after Johnson was injured Wednesday night but her form was markedly worse than usual. Kallman cleared concussion protocol but is still listed as probable on the injury report. The starting center backs will likely be Zadorsky and Whitney Church.
As a result of the weaker backline, the midfield’s role will be particularly important. The Spirit’s midfield will need to absorb a potent Thorns attack that has scored 10 goals in their past 5 games. Meggie Dougherty Howard who in her rookie season has emerged as a standout defensive midfielder is key to this. While Portland’s forwards got the attention in last weekend’s 2-1 win against west coast rivals Seattle Regin FC, the Thorns’ midfield was essential in delivering the win. Portland also frequently exploited the gap the Reign often left between the midfield and backline. Today the Thorns will probably start Christine Sinclair, Amandine Henry, and Lindsey Horan- a fearsome trio that leaves U.S. international Allie Long on the bench.
Location: Providence Park
Kickoff time: 3:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4-3-3) - DiDi Haracic; Caprice Dydasco, Whitney Church, Shelina Zadorsky, Alyssa Kleiner; Meggie Dougherty Howard, Tori Huster, Estefania Banini; Cheyna Williams, Cali Farquharson, Mallory Pugh
Bench: Kelsey Wys, Kassey Kallman, Morgan Proffitt, Havana Solaun, Lindsey Agnew
Projected Thorns starting 11: (3-5-2) - Adrianna Franch; Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett, Emily Menges; Ashleigh Sykes, Meghan Klingenberg, Lindsey Horan, Amandine Henry, Christine Sinclair; Nadia Nadim, Dagny Brynjarsdottir
Referee: Katja Koroleva
Available TV: Lifetime
Available streaming: MyLifetime.com
What are you drinking?: Water, again.
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