The Washington Spirit, short-handed due to a long list of international call-ups, take on the Orlando Pride in a game that was rescheduled due to Hurricane Dorian’s approach at the end of August. Despite a stirring win over North Carolina last week, the Spirit’s playoff hopes ended thanks to other results around the NWSL. The recovery from back-to-back tough seasons might not be ending with postseason play, but Washington is still looking to finish strong and keep progressing rather than switch off for their last two games.
Key player: Meggie Dougherty Howard
Rose Lavelle, Andi Sullivan, and Chloe Logarzo are all away on international duty, which means Dougherty Howard is going to be the most experienced midfielder in the squad today (save for Tori Huster, who has been at right back all season). Most likely at the base of the midfield, she’ll have to set the tempo going forward, break up plays defensively, and provide leadership throughout this game.
Washington’s last visit to Orlando was their most chaotic game of the season, and they’ll need Dougherty Howard to be sharp if they’re going to dictate the terms this time around.
Location: Exploria Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Kickoff time: 5:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4312) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Dorian Bailey; Bayley Feist, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Cali Farquharson; Jordan DiBiasi; Ashley Hatch, Crystal Thomas
Bench: Shae Yanez, McKenzie Berryhill, Tegan McGrady, Megan Crosson, Arielle Ship, Tiffany McCarty
Due to this being an international window, Richie Burke has just 17 players to call on today. The USWNT called in Lavelle, Sullivan, and Mallory Pugh, while Cheyna Matthews is away with Jamaica, and the Spirit’s Aussie trio of Logarzo, Amy Harrison, and Elise Kellond-Knight are all with the Matildas.
It’s not clear whether he’ll go with the midfield diamond that worked well in the second half of last week’s game, or if he’ll return to a 433. If this does end up as a 433, look for Ship or Crosson to join the front line at the expense of either Farquharson or Feist. It is also possible that Crosson starts at left back, freeing Bailey up to join the midfield.
Projected Orlando starting 11: (4231) - Haley Kopmeyer; Kristen Edmonds, Morgan Reid, Julie King, Carson Pickett; Joanna Boyles, Dani Weatherholt; Rachel Hill, Marisa Viggiano, Claire Emslie; Danica Evans
Marc Skinner is also missing 7 players: Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Alanna Kennedy, Marta, and Shelina Zadorsky are all away with their national teams, while Alex Morgan (knee) and Emily van Egmond (ankle) are out injured. The real test is at center back, where Krieger and Zadorsky have been the starting pair for the last two months. Reid seems like a sure starter, as there are no health concerns there other than a lack of games stemming back to the World Cup.
The other spot will probably go to either Julie King or Toni Pressley, but there are doubts about both. King has played just once since September 2017 due to ankle surgery, while Pressley only resumed training about a month ago after overcoming breast cancer. Orlando’s roster just doesn’t have many other options, so we have to note that there might be something unorthodox, like Edmonds (a 5’5” fullback/defensive midfielder) or natural right back Erin Greening playing there instead.
Sydney Leroux is expected to play for only the second time since giving birth earlier this season, but after appearing for the final four minutes last week, it’s safe to expect her to come off the bench rather than play from the start.
Referee: Tori Penso
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington Plus (check this channel finder if you’re unsure what channel that is on your provider)
Available streaming: Monumental Sports Network, Yahoo (domestic). That link will take you to Yahoo’s NWSL stream page, where this game should be the first option on the list.
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: Thinking it’ll be time for a Paloma.
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