The Spirit are looking to get back to winning ways tonight as they face an improving Louisville side
The Washington Spirit are on the road today, taking on a Racing Louisville side that has started to find itself after a few difficult early games as an NWSL expansion team. The Spirit will also be looking to set things right after outplaying Louisville back in week 2 only to fall to defeat on two late counter-attacking goals. They’ll also be looking to make up some lost ground after a recent three-game home stand resulted in just three points.
Key player: Ashley Hatch
Earlier this season, the Spirit went to Louisville and mostly controlled the game, but couldn’t put a goal on the board and eventually fell 2-0. At the time, Hatch and the rest of the Spirit attack were still rounding into form, and the consistency we’re seeing lately wasn’t quite there.
Hatch has scored four goals in the eight game since then, with the Spirit’s struggles to produce goals to go with their possession feeling mostly like a thing of the past. This has involved a team-wide improvement in attacking fluency, but it also takes a finisher, and that’s been Hatch, who is tied for the league lead in goalscoring.
Louisville plays a more open style these days, but that just means more chances for the Spirit. If Hatch is sharp, that probably means putting up the goals that weren’t there the last time Washington visited Racing.
Location: Lynn Family Stadium (Louisville, KY)
Kickoff time: 7:30pm Eastern. This game was originally scheduled for 3pm but was moved back due to the forecasted high temperatures.
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, Sydney Schneider, Karina Rodriguez, Taylor Aylmer, Chinyelu Asher, Jordan DiBiasi, Kumi Yokoyama, Mariana Speckmaier, Tara McKeown
Let’s start with the injury report:
#LOUvWAS injury report
Out: Higginson (leg), Merrick (ankle)
Q’able: Kizer (back), Olofsson (foot), Riehl (ankle)#RiseUpDC
Out: Collins, Feist (both ACL), Biegalski, Goff (both excused)
Olympics: O’Hara, Sonnett, Roddar, Takarada
Q’able: Huster (upper body)#NWSL
— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) July 24, 2021
According to Richie Burke, Huster did travel to Louisville, and they’ll check out how she’s feeling this morning before sorting out her status. If she’s cleared to return after missing out last week, look for her to start in the midfield. If not, Sanchez probably moves back to play the no. 10, and McKeown or Yokoyama seems likely to come in up top.
After the Spirit’s successful appeal of Staab’s red card last week, there aren’t any other known question marks. With four players in Japan for the Olympics, two more injured, and a further two out with excused absences, the Spirit appear to have taken all 20 available players with them to Kentucky.
Projected Louisville starting 11: (4231) – Michelle Betos; Erin Simon, Gemma Bonner, Nealy Martin, Emily Fox; Freja Olofsson, Savannah McCaskill; Lauren Milliet, Yuki Nagasato, Cece Kizer; Ebony Salmon
Christy Holly has two regular starters listed as questionable, with Kizer and Olofsson both battling injury. Emina Ekic seems to have the edge on former Spirit attacker Katie McClure to step in on the wing if Kizer is out, but another former Spirit attacker (Cheyna Matthews) has seen her minutes start to increase as the weeks have gone by after giving birth earlier this year. That could be a direct swap, or it could see Nagasato move back to the left, where she started the season before moving inside as Holly tried to get her on the ball more.
Olofsson, meanwhile, is arguably a bigger issue, as Louisville has little defensive midfield depth. Sinclaire Miramontez appears to be the most likely alternate. Forward Nadia Nadim arrived in Louisville this week after signing a little while ago, but told media mid-week that she’s still pretty far off from full fitness, so if she’s going to make her Racing debut, it seems very likely to be as a substitute.
Referee: Samantha Martinez
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?: The schedule change means that I will be at Audi Field for D.C. United’s game rather than being able to cover it myself, so the answer is press box bottled water.
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