The Washington Spirit have somehow come out of the most daunting few weeks of their entire history with seven points out of a possible nine, and they cap it all off with a trip to the Pacific coast, where they face OL Reign tonight. The Spirit are, forfeits aside, unbeaten in seven games...which is exactly the same length of time the high-flying Reign have gone since their last defeat. With both teams in excellent form amid a push for change league-wide and specifically at their clubs, this promises to be one of the most intriguing NWSL games of the season.
Location: Cheney Stadium (Tacoma, WA)
Kickoff time: 10:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4312) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Julia Roddar; Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan, Dorian Bailey; Ashley Sanchez; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch
Bench: Devon Kerr, Paige Nielsen, Karina Rodríguez, Tegan McGrady, Taylor Aylmer, Saori Takarada, Anna Heilferty, Kumi Yokoyama, Tara McKeown
Despite the brutal schedule lately, we’re not expecting major rotation from the Spirit. That’s not to say it’s a lock, though, with the Spirit’s substitutions lately causing a routine impact. It wouldn’t be out of line if McGrady started at left back, or if Heilferty got the nod up front (particularly if Kris Ward opts to play three true forwards). Takarada and Yokoyama should both be fresh, and given the tight confines at Cheney Stadium, their technical play may also see them in consideration for more minutes.
The one question here is Sullivan, who made the trip to Tacoma (something the Spirit expected to be the case after having to leave her out of Wednesday’s 2-1 win in North Carolina). She’s still listed as questionable, and it’s not clear what Washington would do if she ends up not being able to go. Possibilities include Sonnett or Roddar moving into midfield (opening a spot for Nielsen or McGrady), dropping Huster into a deeper role and bringing Takarada or Aylmer in, or a shift to more of a 4231 and a start for either Heilferty or McKeown.
Projected Reign starting 11: (4312) - Sarah Bouhaddi; Sofia Huerta, Alana Cook, Lauren Barnes, Kristen McNabb; Rose Lavelle, Quinn, Angelina; Jess Fishlock; Bethany Balcer, Megan Rapinoe
Laura Harvey hasn’t been rotating much at all lately, but this is her team’s third game in six days, and with one of the oldest squads in the league, it seems likely that there will be at least some changes to her lineup tonight. We’re guessing that veteran stars like Dzsenifer Marozsán and Eugénie Le Sommer come in off the bench, but there could be more widespread alterations to the lineup.
Could Celia and Jimena López come in as a new set of fullbacks? Or perhaps this is a game Fishlock gets a rest? Or maybe Balcer is held out from the start for Tziarra King or Ally Watt? The Reign are very deep and have a lot of versatile players, so the list of possibilities tonight is very long.
Referee: Ekaterina Koroleva
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Paramount+ (USA), Twitch (international). If you subscribe to Paramount+ via this link, your friends at B&RU get some cash!
What are you drinking?: Tonight’s schedule means I’m rolling right from DCU to this game, so it might be time to break my “don’t drink soda at home” rule and have some caffeine in the form of a Coca-Cola.
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