The Washington Spirit are looking to build on last week’s excellent win today as they host a difficult NJ/NY Gotham FC at Segra Field today. For years, the Spirit piled up wins against the closest thing they have to an NWSL neighbor, but over the past year the series has become far more even. Gotham knocked the Spirit out of last year’s Challenge Cup, and have managed to go 2W-1D-0L in their last three visits to the DMV in all competitions.
Key player: Ashley Sanchez
Sanchez was dynamite last week, even if she didn’t end up getting a goal. The Courage took some risks trying to be attack-minded, and no one benefitted more than Sanchez, who routinely found dangerous spaces to drive the attack from. Playing as a nominal center forward who has freedom to drop off the front line and create from underneath, Sanchez found gaps over and over again, routinely being able to face goal and put on a show.
Gotham is not going to play like the Courage. On the road they’re willing to play in a lower block, and their gameplans tend to be about cancelling out the opponent’s strengths more than emphasizing their own qualities. As a result, it’s quite likely that Gotham has prepared extensively for what spaces Sanchez likes to drop into, and how to prevent her from having those opportunities.
Whether it means temporarily swapping spots with other forwards, or dropping into unexpected pockets, Sanchez is going to have to find a way to operate against a team that will be focused on preventing exactly that.
Location: Segra Field (Leesburg, VA)
Kickoff time: 5:00pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Anna Heilferty, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan, Dorian Bailey; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, Ashley Hatch
Bench: Devon Kerr, Karina Rodriguez, Camryn Biegalski, Taylor Aylmer, Jordan DiBiasi, Chinyelu Asher, Kumi Yokoyama, Mariana Speckmaier, Tara McKeown
Here’s the injury report:
#WASvNJNY injury report— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) July 18, 2021
Intl: O'Hara, Sonnett, Roddar, Takarada
Out: Feist (ACL), Collins (ACL)
Q'able: Huster (upper body)
Intl: Lloyd, Sheridan, Viens
Out: Freeman (knee), Monaghan (hamstring), Skroski (illness)#NWSL #RiseUpDC
Richie Burke probably wants to stick with the same eleven that played so well against North Carolina last week, but Huster’s knock could force him to make at least one change. DiBiasi seems like the most likely choice to step in, though we could see the Spirit play Sanchez in the midfield again (likely flipping their normal triangle so Sullivan and Bailey would be underneath Sanchez). In that case, McKeown or Yokoyama would both be in contention to come in up top.
Other than that, though, things appear to be pretty straightforward. If Sanchez stays in the “9.5” role, Hatch should continue to lead the line despite playing from the left.
Projected Gotham starting 11: (4141) - DiDi Haracic; Caprice Dydasco, Gina Lewandowski, Estelle Johnson, Imani Dorsey; Allie Long; Midge Purce, McCall Zerboni, Jennifer Cudjoe, Nahomi Kawasumi; Ifeoma Onumonu
Freya Coombe has been cycling through her three main center backs all season, but with Mandy Freeman out injured, there’s no mystery: it’ll be Lewandowski and the former Spirit captain Johnson there. Another ex-Spirit player, Haracic, will continue to deputize for Kailen Sheridan, while a third (Dydasco) should return to the starting lineup after only subbing in at halftime last week in a scoreless draw at Portland.
Cudjoe, Zerboni, and Sodam Lee appear to be battling for two starting spots in midfield, but we could see former France international Gaëtane Thiney come in as an attacking midfielder as well (possibly in a 4231 instead of 4141). Coombe could also push her wingers higher in a 433, or have Purce and Kawasumi swap wings.
Referee: Karen Callado
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?: Your humble scribe recorded a new Plex Weather with Nielsen to talk about, among other things, this very game.
️ New Episode ️@Paigenielsen is back on the field for #RiseUpDC, & she's back on Plex Weather! We talked about the win over NC, Sunday's @WashSpirit game vs. Gotham, and much more#NWSL https://t.co/FKazsmxd7v— Plex Weather (@PlexWeather) July 15, 2021
What are you drinking?: I’m writing this as I finish the last can of limoncello seltzer, so tomorrow I’m making a big switch to...uh, lemon.
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