After a disappointing 3-2 loss at the Houston Dash, the Washington Spirit return home to the Maryland SoccerPlex this afternoon to host the Chicago Red Stars. When the two teams met earlier this year they played to a 1-1 tie that could have gone either way, and the Red Stars have managed to go seven straight without a win.
Francisca Ordega scored the opening goal the last time Chicago came to town, but she won’t be around this afternoon for the Spirit due to national team duty with Nigeria. The Spirit are also missing USWNT star Mallory Pugh due to a knee injury sustained in Houston, making the next few games a big challenge. With a June schedule seeing the Spirit play at home three times out of four games, good results are a must if Washington is going to climb back up the standings.
Key player: Estefania Banini
Pugh’s knee injury is pretty bad news for the Spirit, whose attack revolves around her, and when you throw in Ordega, you’ve got the scorers of half of Washington’s goals this season not available today.
This is why Banini is particularly crucial this afternoon. Aside from hopefully adding to her goal total after scoring in Houston, she’s also a good link between the midfield and the forwards. The Spirit attack needs as much creativity and skill as it can get right now, and Banini’s performance will go a long way towards determining whether today goes well or not for Washington.
Location: Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, MD)
Kickoff time: 3:50pm Eastern (broadcast begins at 3:30pm)
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4-3-3) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church, Caprice Dydasco; Andi Sullivan, Rebecca Quinn, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Mallory Eubanks, Ashley Hatch, Estefania Banini
Huster is questionable with a groin injury, and if she can’t play any part today her spot would go to either Morgan Proffitt or Yanara Aedo. DeBree, signed just yesterday as a national team replacement player, will provide some needed defensive depth. Look for Lavelle to play around 30 minutes off the bench as she continues to build her fitness back up. If Jim Gabarra prefers a more attacking lineup, we could see Solaun get a start in the midfield over Dougherty Howard or Quinn.
Projected Red Stars starting 11: (4-1-4-1) - Emily Boyd; Taylor Comeau, Katie Naughton, Sarah Gorden, Arin Gilliland; Nikki Stanton; Alyssa Mautz, Danielle Colaprico, Yuki Nagasato, Michele Vasconcelos; Sam Kerr
Julie Ertz, Sofia Huerta, and Alyssa Naeher are all away with the USWNT, a big blow for the Red Stars. On top of that, normal starting center back Sam Johnson is out with a knee injury. On the other hand, Rory Dames may be able to call on Vanessa DiBernardo and Casey Short for the first time in a while, as both have been upgraded to questionable.
Referee: Karen Abt
Available TV: Lifetime
What are you drinking?: Water!
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