Following a hiatus of of just over five weeks, the NWSL returns today, kicking off its Fall Series with a match between the Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC. For the Spirit, it’s their first action since being upset by their New Jersey-based opponent during the NWSL Challenge Cup. That penalty kick defeat upset the Spirit’s dominance of the rivalry between these two sides, as Washington had won nine straight meetings before being held to a scoreless draw.
Circumstances have changed since then. While the Spirit have seen Rose Lavelle depart the club, Sky Blue have former Spirit attacker Mallory Pugh ready to debut after injury kept her out of the Challenge Cup. On the other hand, Sky Blue will only have 14 field players available, giving Washington more depth even while dealing with four players missing out through injury.
Location: Segra Field (Leesburg, VA)
Kickoff time: 1:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Brooke Hendrix, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Natalie Jacobs; Dorian Bailey, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Bayley Feist; Kumi Yokoyama, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez
Bench: Devon Kerr, Katie Lund, Kaiya McCullough, Jenna Hellstrom, Jaye Boissiere, Jessie Scarpa, Megan McCool, Katie McClure, Averie Collins, Crystal Thomas
Here’s the Spirit’s injury report:
Spirit vs. Sky Blue injury report:— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) September 4, 2020
OUT: Sullivan (meniscus), Huster (foot), McGrady (foot), DiBiasi (hip)
OUT: Lloyd (knee), Dydasco (knee), Wright (knee), Zerboni (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Johnson (hamstring)#WASvNJ #NWSL
These are tough absences both in terms of quality, and in terms of how the roster is constructed. If you have two starting midfielders out at the same time two starting fullbacks are out, and only one Dorian Bailey, it’s tough to cover without asking someone to stretch.
While Hellstrom could easily slot in as a fullback, we’re going to trust the game notes here. Hendrix got a few minutes as a right back during the Challenge Cup, and Jacobs gets a chance to build up reps at left back, a position she might be called upon to cover next year due to her versatility.
Per Richie Burke’s comments to media Thursday, expect to see plenty of substitutions. These teams have had less than three weeks to prepare for games after about a month off, so it sounds like most players are not necessarily 90 minutes fit.
Projected Sky Blue starting 11: (4141) - Kailen Sheridan; Midge Purce, Gina Lewandowski, Erica Skroski, Imani Dorsey; Domi Richardson; Mallory Pugh, Sarah Woldmoe, Jennifer Cudjoe, Paige Monaghan; Ifeoma Onumonu
Injuries and players away on loan are going to be a problem for Sky Blue, who have named an 18-player roster for the Fall Series that includes four goalkeepers. Carli Lloyd is among the injured, as is former Spirit captain Estelle Johnson (questionable with a hamstring strain). Nahomi Kawasumi, Liz Eddy, and Evelyne Viens are all playing abroad on loan.
Referee: As of the time this was written, PRO had not announced a referee.
Available TV: CBS
Available streaming: CBS All Access (U.S.), Twitch (international)
What do we have to say about it?: We have a story on Sanchez slicing teams up on the dribble, a piece on the overall schedule for this Fall Series pod, and yours truly put out a new Plex Weather with Dougherty Howard yesterday:
Did another show for y'all, just in time for the #NWSL Fall Series. @MeggieDH stopped in to talk #CatchTheSpirit, & there's some more show news (p.s. promise that not every show will contain show news) https://t.co/Lzji29eDep— Plex Weather (@PlexWeather) September 4, 2020
What are you drinking?: I’ll be in the stadium drinking bottled water provided by the team, but on my way out to Leesburg I’ll need to hit a drive-thru for some coffee.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.