After losing a late lead last week, the Washington Spirit are hoping to take the next step tonight as they face Racing Louisville. Visiting Kentucky for the first time, the Spirit will be looking to repeat (or improve upon) their previous meeting with Racing, a 1-0 win that included a dramatic stoppage-time winning goal.
Doing so won’t be easy. While Louisville have not won in their first-ever NWSL season, they haven’t given up a goal in 186 minutes, With plenty of ex-Spirit players in their squad and the benefit of having seen Washington already, they’ll be looking to win for the first time in front of home fans.
Key player: Ashley Sanchez
Sanchez had some good moments carrying the ball from the midfield into the final third against Orlando, but ultimately she was somewhat muted. Just as a point of comparison, Saori Takarada attempted more passes in the Pride half (12) in 45 minutes than Sanchez did in 87 (10).
This is an ongoing dynamic for the Spirit, who aren’t getting as much out of Sanchez in part because teams are keying on her and forcing play elsewhere. This can leave her with the option of dragging defenders away, but right now the Spirit have to simply overcome those defensive choices and find their number 10 regardless. And then, once Sanchez gets her touches, she needs to be a bit more decisive on a regular basis. There’s no questioning her ability, but for her and the Spirit it’s making sure that ability is a major factor throughout tonight’s game.
Location: Lynn Family Stadium (Louisville, KY)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan, Dorian Bailey; Saori Takarada, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez
Bench: Devon Kerr, Camryn Biegalski, Julia Roddar, Natalie Jacobs, Jordan DiBiasi, Anna Heilferty, Mariana Speckmaier, Kumi Yokoyama, Ashley Hatch
Richie Burke will be without Paige Nielsen (thigh), who played last week but was left out after aggravating an injury. Rookie forward Tara McKeown is also out, as she’s been granted leave by the club to return to USC for her graduation ceremony, an arrangement that both parties agreed to before she signed. Meanwhile, while Hatch scored last week, but also picked up a mild ankle sprain in a tackle. Burke said her mobility was limited in training, and she’ll undergo a fitness test sometime today to determine whether she can play or not.
The domino effect from these situations is that Sonnett will probably move back into central defense after playing as a midfielder last week, which in turn sees Sullivan into a more familiar role as the no. 6. Burke could move Huster up into the midfield, move O’Hara from left back to the right, and give McGrady a start, or he could opt to keep Huster and O’Hara where they were against Orlando and play Jacobs, Roddar, or possibly even Takarada as the third midfielder.
Projected Louisville starting 11: (4231) - Michelle Betos; Erin Simon, Brooke Hendrix, Kaleigh Riehl, Emily Fox; Freja Olofsson, Lauren Milliet; Katie McClure, Savannah McCaskill, Yuki Nagasato; Cece Kizer
Christy Holly has been very consistent with his lineup, with the main competition between former Spirit attacker McClure and Emina Ekic. That’s still up for grabs, but Holly has two injury issues, as Riehl and Kizer are both listed as questionable. If Riehl needs to miss out, Neely Martin seems to be the likely option to step in. Up front, Jorian Baucom has been the second choice after Kizer, though McClure or Ekic could move up as well. Another option to play at least some minutes is another former Spirit player, Cheyna Matthews.
Referee: Ekaterina Koroleva
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Twitch (USA and international)
What do we have to say about it?: The latest Plex Weather is here:
Promised y'all a new one before the next game, ran into some issues/the sunk cost fallacy trying to get a guest (my fault, not theirs), but a promise is a promise. It's me, talking over #SpiritFam's 1-1 draw in Orlando & tonight's game at Rahhhhhhhhhhcinghttps://t.co/pyDKuMdUU9— Plex Weather (@PlexWeather) May 21, 2021
Later today, I should have more on Burke’s pre-game thoughts and the injury situation.
What are you drinking?: Pre-game it’s looking like lemon seltzer, but once I get through the post-game press conference, I’m gonna make myself a margarita.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.