The Washington Spirit are looking to maintain their good road form today as they head out to Illinois to take on the Chicago Red Stars. A win for Washington, coupled with the right results in Orlando and Portland tomorrow, could see the Spirit move up into first place in the NWSL standings. However, defeating the Red Stars away from home is always a tall task, and Chicago has found their footing after a wobbly start to the year.
Key player: Ashley Sanchez
The Red Stars have made being organized and hard to play through their foundation for years, and this year’s team is no different. With Morgan Gautrat in excellent form and experienced, hard-working players all over, there’s just never much room to operate against Chicago. Most teams that lose Julie Ertz to injury would struggle to keep that kind of solidity, but Chicago has been doing this for a long time.
While the Spirit love to use overloads on the flanks to create their chances — we’ll surely see plenty of Washington attacks designed to create openings on the outside of a compact Chicago group — it’s vital that Washington doesn’t end up settling for lots of crosses. No one will play a bigger role on that front than Sanchez, who will have to work very hard to find the small pockets between the lines. If she’s able to do that, her creativity will be able to shine from there.
Location: SeatGeek Stadium (Bridgeview, IL)
Kickoff time: 8:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Kelley O’Hara; Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez, Dorian Bailey; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, Tara McKeown
Bench: Devon Kerr, Paige Nielsen, Tegan McGrady, Camryn Biegalski, Julia Roddar, Natalie Jacobs, Anna Heilferty, Kumi Yokoyama, Mariana Speckmaier
Let’s start with the injury report:
#CHIvWAS injury report— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) June 18, 2021
Out: Collins (ACL), Feist (ACL), DiBiasi (hip)
Questionable: Nielsen (thigh)
International: Takarada (Japan)
Out: Ertz (knee), Colaprico (hip), Wright (thigh), Doniak (personal)#SpiritFam #NWSL #MKOT
Burke told media on Thursday that he’d really like to get Nielsen some minutes in this game, which could mean Sonnett moving back into the midfield as an in-game adjustment. Jordan DiBiasi is out, though Burke cautioned that he wouldn’t categorize the situation as a setback in her comeback from offseason hip surgery.
Elsewhere, one question Burke will have to tackle is whether O’Hara (who just played 90 minutes for the USWNT) is ready to start on short rest, or whether McGrady will get a start at left back. There’s a similar question in midfield, where Roddar (fresh off 90-minute shift at right back for Sweden) and Bailey seem to be contending for one starting spot.
Projected Chicago starting 11: (4231) - Alyssa Naeher; Casey Krueger, Kayla Sharples, Tierna Davidson, Sarah Gorden; Sarah Woldmoe, Morgan Gautrat; Rachel Hill, Vanessa DiBernardo, Mallory Pugh; Kealia Watt
With Danny Colaprico and Arin Wright both out, the 4231/352 hybrid Rory Dames successfully used against North Carolina is probably going to be put aside for a more conventional look. DiBernardo figures to return to the lineup with Colaprico out, while Gorden seems sure to replace Wright at left back (with Sharples coming in at center back).
Dames did tell media yesterday that Davidson might be a decision they make today, but with Wright and Julie Ertz out, it seems probable that she’ll be in from the start.
Referee: Karen Abt
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Twitch (USA & international)
What do we have to say about it?: Yours truly put together a brand new Plex Weather just in time for this one:
What are you drinking?: I will be at Audi Field for D.C. United’s home game that sadly overlaps directly with this game, and since it’s gonna be muggy, I’ll be downing lots of water.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion.