The Washington Spirit will be looking to add a final product tonight as they host NJ/NY Gotham FC at Segra Field. The Spirit outplayed a physical Orlando side last week for long spells, but couldn’t turn their dominance into a goal, settling for a scoreless road draw. Gotham, meanwhile, never gained a foothold in a loss in North Carolina, falling to a 2-0 loss in which they were credited with just four shot attempts.
That said, Washington has to overcome two troubling trends to take the points tonight. The Spirit have beaten Gotham just once in their last six meetings, scoring just four times in the process. They’ve also found Segra an uncomfortable second home, going 2W-0D-4L in Leesburg (including two losses to Gotham) all-time.
Key player: Sam Staab
Gotham has, in Midge Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu, one of the most dangerous front lines in the league. It’s the variety of ways they can beat you that causes all the trouble: Purce is as fast as they come, but she’s also arguably Gotham’s chief playmaker, whether on the dribble or with an underrated range of passes. Onumonu, meanwhile, has a target forward’s build, but it’s her deceptive footwork and first touch that stand out rather than being an old-fashioned battling number nine.
With Emily Sonnett out, Staab’s got a lot on her plate. Aside from her normal role opening the game up with her long-range passing, she’ll be handling a first-ever NWSL start alongside new signing Amber Brooks. If the Challenge Cup can be used to gauge what this team might need to do during international windows down the road, standing up to Gotham’s forwards is as good a litmus test as the NWSL has to offer.
Location: Segra Field (Leesburg, VA)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern
Projected Spirit starting 11: (433) - Aubrey Kingsbury; Kelley O’Hara, Amber Brooks, Sam Staab, Julia Roddar; Taylor Aylmer, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, Tara McKeown
Bench: Devon Kerr, Nicole Barnhart, Karina Rodríguez, Camryn Biegalski, Morgan Goff, Gaby Vincent, Anna Heilferty, Tinaya Alexander
Here’s your injury report:
#WASvNJNY availability report:— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) March 25, 2022
Out: Baggett (hip), Bailey (leg), Collins (ACL), Feist
(ACL), Huster (achilles), Martin (hip), Sonnett (abdomen)
Out: Flores (knee), Long (excused)#OneSpirit #Yerrrr #NWSLChallengeCup #NWSL https://t.co/oDQ5FAmlzU
O’Hara alluded to some players having knocks post-game, and the list of players who didn’t bounce back quickly enough to play today is Bailey and Sonnett. Yesterday Kris Ward confirmed to media that Brooks will start in Sonnett’s place, while it seems probable that Aylmer (or perhaps Vincent?) steps in for Bailey.
One thing to watch: the Spirit have just eight available subs, and that’s with two goalkeepers on the bench. In particular, they’re short up front, where Heilferty (who the Spirit want to see at left back) and Alexander are the list. Don’t be surprised if Sanchez moves up for a spell, and we could see O’Hara turning back the clock to be a wide attacker again at some point.
Projected Gotham FC starting 11: (4312) - Ashlyn Harris; Caprice Dydasco, Ali Krieger, Mandy Freeman, Imani Dorsey; Jennifer Cudjoe, McCall Zerboni, Kristie Mewis; Nahomi Kawasumi; Midge Purce, Ifeoma Onumonu
Scott Parkinson has Kristie Mewis and Ifeoma Onumonu back after both missed last week’s loss to the Courage with knocks. That’s huge news, especially if they’re fit to start, as we’re talking about arguably two of their three best players.
If they’re not starting, Paige Monaghan is a favorite to step in, but can play either up front or on the left of the midfield diamond. Last week, Monaghan started in the midfield, with rookie Cameron Tucker playing up front, but Taryn Torres, Nicole Baxter, and former Spirit attacker Kumi Yokoyama are all options to get the nod.
Referee: Alyssa Nichols
Available TV: None
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What are you drinking?: On the long, cruel drive to Leesburg, I’ll be having a cup of coffee at some point. At the game itself? Press box water, my old friend.
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