The Washington Spirit get what feels like a rare home game tonight as they host the Chicago Red Stars at Segra Field. The Spirit were due to play in Leesburg just over five weeks ago, but NWSL determined that ongoing improvements at the venue weren’t acceptable, relocating a Washington “home” game to Houston.
Despite that, and the fact that the Spirit have only played one of their seven regular season games at a home venue, the club is nonetheless in position to temporarily draw level with Orlando at the top of the NWSL standings with a victory tonight. The Red Stars are coming off of a 3-0 home loss to Racing Louisville that will be hard for them to take, and historically they’ve bounced back from a bad result with a quick improvement.
Key player: Trinity Rodman
Fresh off of making the NWSL Team of the Month and her first regular season goal, it’s obvious that Rodman is in good form. However, there were also long stretches of recent games where she faded slightly, and it seems notable that her goals in the last two games came only when players on both sides got too tired to prevent the game from opening up.
That matters against Chicago, a team that very much does not want to open up on the road. Rodman’s movement in transition moments is vital here, as she can be the first option for the Spirit to stretch the Red Stars either out to the wing, or vertically by running in behind. The technical side and the bravery to call her own number going to goal aren’t in question at all; rather, it’s how often the Spirit can pick her out now that teams are very much focused on making sure that doesn’t happen.
Location: Segra Field (Leesburg, VA)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady; Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez, Dorian Bailey; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, Tara McKeown
Bench: Devon Kerr, Camryn Biegalski, Julia Roddar, Natalie Jacobs, Chinyelu Asher, Jordan DiBiasi, Anna Heilferty, Kumi Yokoyama, Mariana Speckmaier
#WASvCHI injury report— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) July 2, 2021
Out: Feist (ACL), Collins (ACL)
Intl: Takarada (Japan), Sonnett (USWNT), O'Hara (USWNT), Rodriguez (Mexico)
Out: St. Georges (lower body)
Questionable: Woldmoe (lower body)
Intl: Davidson, Ertz, Naeher (all USWNT)#NWSL #RiseUpDC
There’s your injury report, which has three positive changes: Hatch, Nielsen, and DiBiasi are both off of it. Richie Burke told media yesterday that Nielsen “will play,” but how much remains unclear as she returns from a pesky thigh injury. Center back is suddenly a position where the Spirit are short due to no less than three options being away on international duty; most likely, if Nielsen can’t play the full 90, Sullivan will drop back.
Elsewhere, as the Spirit aren’t playing on a very narrow baseball field this time around, look for Huster to be at right back (unless Sullivan moves back, in which case it feels likely that Huster would be in the midfield), and a more attack-minded eleven with Sanchez in the midfield and Hatch restored as a starter after training this week and having no concussion setbacks.
Projected Chicago starting 11: (4231) - Cassie Miller; Arin Wright, Kayla Sharples, Sarah Gorden, Casey Krueger; Nikki Stanton, Morgan Gautrat; Rachel Hill, Vanessa DiBernardo, Mal Pugh; Kealia Watt
Rory Dames is without three USWNT players plus Danny Colaprico (suspension) and Bianca St. Georges, as you already saw in the injury report above. Cassie Miller appears to have won the job to back Alyssa Naeher up, while Chicago has played virtually the entire season without Julie Ertz so they’re used to that. Tierna Davidson’s absence opens the door for Sharples to return as a starter, while it feels probable that Krueger will switch from right back to the left to counter Rodman.
Further forward, we’re listing Stanton as a starter, but if Sarah Woldmoe overcomes a knock, she’d probably get the nod instead. Coming off of a very bad loss to Louisville, though, all of this is potentially subject to change, with players like Alyssa Mautz and Katie Johnson possible options if Dames wants to make more changes to his attack.
Referee: JC Griggs
Available TV: None
Available streaming: Twitch (USA and international)
What are you drinking?: I’ll be in the building for this one, and facing a long drive there, it’s looking like some cold brew on my way out before switching over to water. I’ve also got gummy bears to snack on, as is always the case when I’m in the car over two hours.
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