The Washington Spirit face Racing Louisville in what is a vital game for their playoff hopes. Despite a solid road draw mid-week, the Spirit will kick off tonight just outside the playoff spots. While focus around NWSL is justifiably on larger matters than wins and losses, Washington is still motivated to continue a run that has seen them unbeaten in games that were actually played dating back over two months.
On the other side, Louisville — winless in their last eight, and having conceded ten goals in their last three games — face mathematical elimination from the playoff hunt with a loss today. While their expansion season hasn’t gone to plan, they’ve played the Spirit tough, including hanging on into stoppage time before a 1-0 Challenge Cup loss on their last visit to Audi Field.
Key player: Ashley Sanchez
Louisville has had issues all season preventing opposing teams from getting on the ball between the lines, and even a formation change hasn’t really cured the problem. While Racing has had their moments of being solid in their defensive set-up, they tend to take too long to get there, and teams that get after them quickly after turnovers have found plenty of room for their creators to operate.
That’s a recipe for success for Sanchez, who should have room to face goal and run at defenders often enough tonight to create plenty of chances for herself and others.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (4312) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan, Dorian Bailey; Ashley Sanchez; Tara McKeown, Ashley Hatch
Bench: Devon Kerr, Paige Nielsen, Karina Rodríguez, Julia Roddar, Taylor Aylmer, Saori Takarada, Anna Heilferty, Kumi Yokoyama, Trinity Rodman
Kris Ward mentioned on Wednesday night that he expected to have to rotate, especially with the fact that the Spirit have two more games after this that are, like today’s on short rest. Our guess includes McKeown and McGrady coming in for Nielsen and Rodman, both of whom received treatment for knocks during the 0-0 draw with Gotham FC. But, given the uncharted territory that is playing one game in 37 days and then playing four games in ten, there’s definitely some uncertainty here.
It’s worth pointing out that all five of the subs that came in mid-week brought significant energy, especially in the final minutes, boosting their chances of getting more time.
Projected Louisville starting 11: (4312) - Katie Lund; Erin Simon, Brooke Hendrix, Kaleigh Riehl, Emily Fox; Savannah McCaskill, Freja Olofsson, Lauren Milliet; Yuki Nagasato; Cheyna Matthews, Ebony Salmon
Under interim coach Mario Sanchez, Louisville has moved into a midfield diamond on a regular basis. However, there has been rotation throughout the lineup, both due to a need to give players chances to make their mark, and Racing’s need to find some mix that breaks their rough run of form.
It’s possible that we see three or four former Spirit players starting on the other side tonight, particularly if Lund maintains her spot in goal over Michelle Betos after starting on Wednesday. There could be significant changes from this projected lineup, with the fullback spots, the attacking midfield job, and both forwards all seeing significant rotation lately.
Referee: Laura Rodriguez
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?: It’s still warm enough for the drive in to involve cold brew rather than hot coffee, so that’s what it’ll be.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.
Black and Red United has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Black and Red United and Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles.