Despite the weather heating up, the Washington Spirit have gone ice cold, failing to score in five straight games and currently mired in a six-game winless run. That would lead most to expect a real struggle today against the Orlando Pride, who currently sit in the final NWSL playoff spot. However, the Spirit have managed to play the Pride extremely close this year, winning 2-0 in early April on two late goals before falling 1-0 on a goal of the year contender from Alanna Kennedy a couple of weeks ago.
If Washington wants to break this long slump, they’ll need to once again keep a potent attack bottled up while still pushing enough numbers forward to (finally) get themselves on the scoreboard.
Key player: Ashley Hatch
No attacking player wants to endure a five-game scoreless run for their team, but what moments the Spirit have carved out recently have centered on Hatch, who scored their most recent goal. Injuries have left few of the club’s other attacking starters available consistently, and Hatch has often had to go it alone.
While we might see players like Rose Lavelle, Estefania Banini, or Havana Solaun able to come in off the bench and boost the creativity on the field, Hatch is going to have to keep working hard while developing more of a relationship with Francisca Ordega. For the time being, those two are most likely going to have to carve out their own opportunities while fighting for crosses from the fullbacks.
Location: Orlando City Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4312) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Taylor Smith, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Tori Huster, Rebecca Quinn, Andi Sullivan; Meggie Dougherty Howard; Francisca Ordega, Ashley Hatch
Bench: DiDi Haracic, Maddie Huster, Joanna Lohman, Rose Lavelle, Havana Solaun, Estefania Banini, Mallory Eubanks
Lavelle, Banini, and Eubanks are all listed as questionable, while Solaun has just one stoppage time cameo appearance since missing a month due to a knee injury. If she, Banini, or Lavelle are fit, we may see one of them start over Dougherty Howard as the attacking midfield in this diamond, or we could also see Jim Gabarra revert back to the 433 that he has largely preferred.
Alex Morgan is questionable with a calf strain, but if she’s fit to play you can expect her to start, with Leroux going wide and Ubogagu moving to the bench. In the two prior meetings between these teams this season, Morgan and Marta were only on the field together for a combined 19 minutes. Orlando should start no fewer than four ex-Spirit players (Harris, Krieger, Zadorsky, and Nairn).
Referee: Danielle Chesky
Available TV: ESPNews
What are you drinking?: I’m leaning towards a margarita for this one
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