The Washington Spirit have a history of strange home games, but they’re in uncharted territory tonight as they “host” the Houston Dash...in Texas. Thanks to ongoing construction at Segra Field and a dispute with D.C. United over strings attached to moving this game to Audi Field, the Spirit are the home team on paper in a game that will be at Houston’s stadium, with Houston’s fans.
Regardless of the oddities surrounding the venue, this is also a game between two teams that expected to have more wins at this point in the season. Instead, both clubs have just one win apiece, meaning that two clubs that expected to challenge for home playoff games are currently closer to the bottom of the NWSL standings than the top.
Key player: Trinity Rodman
It’s more or less to the point that we could pick Rodman for this on a weekly basis, but today against Houston, there are specific things about the match-up that make it a must. First, it feels for all the world like Rodman is going to be involved whenever the Spirit break this bad luck in front of goal, whether it’s as a finisher or a cutback from the touchline or drawing a defender out of position.
Secondly, the Dash have shown a preference to keep their right back home, sending Allysha Chapman up the left more regularly, and that’s a good reason to play Rodman out on the right wing (where she’s been at her best) tonight. Forcing Chapman to stay home to deal with Rodman will help blunt Houston’s attack, and Chapman’s physical brand of soccer might also see Rodman win a few set pieces for the Spirit to boot.
Location: BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston, TX)
Kickoff time: 8:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan, Julia Roddar; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez
Bench: Devon Kerr, Camryn Biegalski, Saori Takarada, Natalie Jacobs, Jordan DiBiasi, Anna Heilferty, Kumi Yokoyama, Mariana Speckmaier, Tara McKeown
The injury report is unchanged from last week’s game, but that brings up a question: how is Dorian Bailey? Richie Burke said after the Louisville game that Bailey had dislocated her shoulder and, while the injury hadn’t been fully examined at that point, generally it’s something that takes “a couple of weeks.”
This lineup reflects the likelihood that Bailey is out, but if she’s not, she’s probably starting over Roddar in the midfield, with Speckmaier the most likely player to drop out of the gameday 20-player squad.
The other aspect of guessing about tonight boils down to whether the Spirit want Sanchez wide or central. Given that the Dash play two holding midfielders who don’t leave as much space as Louisville tends to do between the lines, the guess here is that Sanchez is on the wing, but if Washington starts her in the middle, Takarada will probably come in on the wing.
Projected Houston starting 11: (4141) - Jane Campbell; Haley Hanson, Megan Oyster, Katie Naughton, Allysha Chapman; Sophie Schmidt; Nichelle Prince, Shea Groom, Kristie Mewis, Veronica Latsko; Rachel Daly
Most of James Clarkson’s lineup seems clear, especially with only one player (Cami Privett) on the injury report. The Dash can move this into a 4231, with Mewis dropping alongside Schmidt, but so far this year they’ve stuck to this 4141 shape. Unless he’s planning to rotate heavily due to the mid-week game, the only question mark here is whether it will be Latsko, Bri Visalli, or Gabby Seiler out on the left wing.
Referee: Natalie Simon
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Paramount+ (USA), Twitch (international)
What do we have to say about it?: Got a new Plex Weather (with DiBiasi as my guest) done yesterday just in time for this game:
️ ️ ️— Plex Weather (@PlexWeather) May 25, 2021
Please proceed calmly to your earbuds to listen to this podcast, this time with guest! @DiBiasiJordan joined the show to talk about the Spirit's play of late, tomorrow's game, returning from hip surgery, and of course Deweyhttps://t.co/HML9VAzaQ4
What are you drinking?: It’s looking like tonight’s seltzer will be Lacroix’s limoncello flavor, which is pretty good if you can find it.
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