The Washington Spirit will conclude their slate of NWSL Fall Series matches today with a short trip north to take on Sky Blue FC. After thoroughly dominating the series between the clubs from 2016 through 2019, the Spirit were unable to break through against their New Jersey-based rivals at the Challenge Cup, and then fell 2-1 at Segra Field in the first game of the Fall Series on a stunning late goal.
This time around, Washington will need improvement on both sides of the ball — more urgency and better movement going forward, and more coordination in defending the channels that Sky Blue loves to attack — if they’re going to end their schedule with a win.
player concept: Positive game states
The Spirit have had spells in all three Fall Series games where they’ve controlled play and had their chances with the score 0-0, but we’re not talking about a bunch of spells, and we’re not talking about very good execution on those chances. At the other end, a defense that has normally been very stingy has given away plenty of shots once the game settles down. As a result, the Spirit have fallen behind in all three of the games they’ve played in their pod.
Now, we’ve also seen Washington get two very late equalizers, and one late winner, so we know that this group is determined. However, one part of making the step from being one of the NWSL’s better teams to being a genuine contender is the ability to get themselves out in front when both sides are fresh, and when both are playing their starting lineup. Long-term, it’s not viable to expect to always be able to produce a comeback, and at the moment the Spirit’s earliest goal in the Fall Series was Bayley Feist’s 71st minute goal against Chicago.
Long story short, the Spirit attack has to be more precise on and off the ball early in games so that they can get out in front. On top of it just being generally a better path to win games, it’s also where their possession style can make teams absolutely miserable.
Location: MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field (Montclair, NJ)
Kickoff time: 12:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Natalie Jacobs, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Jenna Hellstrom; Bayley Feist, Dorian Bailey, Ashley Sanchez; Kumi Yokoyama, Ashley Hatch, Crystal Thomas
Bench: Devon Kerr, Katie Lund, Brooke Hendrix, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Jessie Scarpa, Meghan McCool, Katie McClure, Averie Collins
Here’s the injury report for tomorrow:
#NJvWAS injury report— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) October 2, 2020
Out - Dydasco (knee), Lloyd (knee), Wright (knee), Pugh (Achilles), Zerboni (knee)
Questionable - Lewandowski (personal)
Out - DiBiasi (hip), Huster (ankle), Sullivan (knee), McGrady (foot), Boissiere (hip)#NWSL #CatchTheSpirit
Hatch traveled to Chicago last week after being listed as questionable and, I’m told by my friends at Southside Trap, went through an extensive warm-up before the game. It seems unlikely that she plays 90 minutes, but signs point to her starting. This is a guess, but we may also see a start for Thomas, who got through 45 minutes last week with no setbacks.
The one other situation to watch involves Dougherty Howard, who had to come off last week with what was reported as a migraine. Richie Burke told media on Thursday that she experienced vertigo, but that she took some medication and got through training this week. Per Burke, the training staff was going to go over her training loads before a decision is made about whether she starts, or just subs in. If she’s available, she’ll come in at the base of the midfield, with Bailey most likely moving to left back.
Projected Sky Blue starting 11: (433) - Kailen Sheridan; Sabrina Flores, Mandy Freeman, Estelle Johnson, Imani Dorsey; Jennifer Cudjoe, Sarah Woldmoe, Domi Richardson; Midge Purce, Ifeoma Onumonu, Paige Monaghan
Freya Coombe might be without six players (possibly because of that, they signed former D.C. United Women forward Mikaela Howell to a short-term contract on Thursday), so there are very few changes possible from the team that lost 4-1 in Chicago two weeks ago. If this lineup is accurate, there’s only one: former Spirit captain Johnson in for Gina Lewandowski.
Referee: As of when this was written, PRO hadn’t announced the referees for today’s game.
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Twitch (US and international)
What do we have to say about it?: B&RU’s André Carlisle joined the team’s podcast to talk about this game, and the Fall series in general. He won’t want me to say this, but he did an awesome job:
What are you drinking?: Given that it’s going to only be in the lower 60s at best today, I’m probably going to brew some coffee and sip on that throughout the game.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.