Again? Yes, once again, the Washington Spirit take on the Chicago Red Stars, this time at SeatGeek Stadium. It’s the third time these two teams have met since June 19, and the sixth time they’ve played since late June of 2020, so the level of familiarity between both teams is uncommonly high. This year, the Spirit have seen Chicago take points from them with a late penalty in Bridgeview, and then outplayed the Red Stars at Segra Field only to lose 1-0 by conceding on a set piece. That adds some extra motivation to level the season series, and to get on a winning run after following each of their last two victories up with a loss.
Key player: Trinity Rodman
The last time these teams played, we cited Rodman as our key player, only for a first half back knock to become full-blown back spasms early in the second half, forcing her out of the game early.
There’s still a good reason to go back to the well, though. Rodman’s ability to open the game up with her movement off the ball and her connection with Andi Sullivan for balls over the top will be critical against Chicago, who will very likely set up to stay compact and keep the game tight even if they don’t see much of the ball.
The Spirit will need those moments where Rodman’s out on the run, but they’re also going to have to find her in spaces where she can get past someone while dribbling in the attacking third without being at full speed. Last time out, they couldn’t find enough of those moments where she had room to operate within the Red Stars’ structure, and today the Spirit need to collectively manufacture that kind of opening to get the most out of Rodman.
Location: SeatGeek Stadium (Bridgeview, IL)
Kickoff time: 6:00pm 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, Chinyelu Asher, Jordan DiBiasi, Kumi Yokoyama, Mariana Speckmaier, Tara McKeown
Let’s start with the injury report:
#CHIvWAS injury report:— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) July 31, 2021
Out: DiBernardo (head), Doniak (foot)
Olympics: Ertz, Naeher, Davidson, Krueger (all USA)
Out: Feist (ACL), Collins (ACL), Goff (excused)
Olympics: O'Hara, Sonnett (both USA), Roddar (Sweden), Takarada (Japan)#RiseUpDC #NWSL
Richie Burke told reporters on Friday that he was pleasantly surprised by how the team had come through training this week, with Bailey (who was subbed off for precautionary reasons last week) and Huster (who has not appeared in the last two games with an upper body injury) both apparently good to go.
As such, we’re expecting them in the midfield from the start, which means Sanchez should end up to the front line again. Now, if we end up with only one of Huster and Bailey starting, Sanchez would be back in midfield, and we might see Yokoyama — whom Burke cited as having been very sharp this week — or McKeown come in as the third forward.
Projected Red Stars starting 11: (4231) - Cassie Miller; Tatumn Milazzo, Kayla Sharples, Sarah Gorden, Arin Wright; Morgan Gautrat, Sarah Woldmoe; Rachel Hill, Mal Pugh, Katie Johnson; Kealia Watt
The Red Stars missing four USWNT players, plus Vanessa DiBernardo and Makenzy Doniak (as you read above), plus the suspended Bianca St. Georges. That leaves some tough calls for Rory Dames. Milazzo has been starting as they’ve been trying to build St. Georges up from a knee injury, and while she’s played more left back than right, it feels like Chicago will have Wright on the left to go up against Rodman.
it’s more complicated up front, as two of their Olympic starting four are out. We’re listing Johnson on the left, but she could be on the right, with Hill up top and Watt on the left. Or, we could see a 433 with Danny Colaprico joining the midfield trio (which would mean a front three of Hill, Watt, and Pugh).
Referee: Natalie Simon
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 are you drinking?: It’s cooled off a little, but it’s still summer, so I need crisp and refreshing. That means some kind of citrus-flavored seltzer during the game, and then a Crooked Crab cream ale once the post-game obligations are over.
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