The Washington Spirit, seriously this time, are at home to take on the Orlando Pride on what promises to be a hot day in the District. The Spirit won what is on paper their first home game of the year last week, but as that game was played in Houston, today at Audi Field will be the first regular season match in the DMV for Washington since late September 2019.
It also just so happens to be a battle for the top spot in the NWSL standings, with the Pride currently in 1st place with a three-point edge on Washington.
Key player: Emily Sonnett
Orlando’s good start to the season has had several causes, but the play of their star-studded attack is arguably top of the list. A team with Marta, Alex Morgan, and Sydney Leroux is actually playing like a team with those players, and the Pride’s shift to being a more direct team means they’re creating a lot of tricky situations for opposing defenses.
Sonnett, and really the whole back line, will thus be under pressure even when the Spirit appear to have Orlando looking at few options. A long ball from the Pride, as Washington found out in their regular season opener, is more dangerous than it is for most teams. Combine that with what Orlando can do once they actually get some possession closer to goal, and you have a major challenge in terms of both collective organization and individual battles.
Location: Audi Field (Washington, DC)
Kickoff time: 2:00pm 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, Tegan McGrady, Camryn Biegalski, Julia Roddar, Natalie Jacobs, Jordan DiBiasi, Anna Heilferty, Kumi Yokoyama, Mariana Speckmaier
With Saori Takarada and Sydney Schneider away on international duty and an otherwise unchanged injury report, Richie Burke has 20 available players, so that step in predicting the lineup was easy. Coming off of two straight wins is probably a signal that there won’t be big changes, either.
So, the prediction here is a return to the lineup for Sullivan, who is back from suspension, and Rodman. I’m less sure about Bailey, if only because her shoulder injury cleared up faster than expected, yet also kept her from starting in Tacoma. Roddar and Jacobs both showed that they’re up for the job, so they’re battling to step in if Bailey is kept in reserve. The last change is up front, with Rodman probably back in the starting eleven over Yokoyama.
Projected Orlando starting 11: (4231) - Ashlyn Harris; Ali Riley, Ali Krieger, Phoebe McClernon, Courtney Petersen; Gunnhildur Jonsdottir, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Taylor Kornieck, Marta, Sydney Leroux; Alex Morgan
Marc Skinner’s side is rolling right now, so there’s not too many reasons to expect changes. However, Leroux is questionable with a minor thigh issue, and if she’s out, we may see former Spirit forward Crystal Thomas out wide. It could also be Marisa Viggiano playing centrally, with Marta moving to the left.
That said, Viggiano is also competing with another former Spirit player, Doughery Howard, to start deeper in the midfield. To really briefly sum up the options, MDH is the more defensive option for Skinner, and since they’re on the road, it feels like she has the edge to partner Jonsdottir.
Referee: Adorae Monroy
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 do we have to say about it?: Got a brand-new Plex Weather for you to listen to while you hydrate during this offensively hot day:
️ New episode! ️— Plex Weather (@PlexWeather) June 5, 2021
This week, we've got two games to review, so Jason talked about those @WashSpirit wins before bringing @byjuliapoe on to talk about the 1st place Orlando Pride, who are in town to play the Spirit tomorrow #NWSL #WASvORLhttps://t.co/ogAYmJAqor
What are you drinking?: Water! Lots of water. You can bring a bottle to the stadium too, so so save yourself a few bucks and a wait for concessions.
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.