Preview: Washington Spirit (a)
Updated: Jun 5, 2021
When? Sunday 6 July, 11 a.m. PT, 2 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. BST.
Where? Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on Twitch for all supporters (the Twitch app or via Twitch.tv).
Another day, another game against the Washington Spirit. For the third time this season, the Orlando Pride will lock horns with the team from the Capitol. This promises to be a fascinating encounter as the table topping Pride visit second place Washington. It's been an amazing week for the Pride, as they took 9 points from a possible 9. Marc Skinner's team are the team to beat just now. That being said, the Spirit are no mugs. Richie Burke's squad have found their feet with some impressive results of late. Their latest victory, in Tacoma, really made people sit up and pay attention to this club. Orlando will have to be at their best if they hope to make it 4 wins on the spin in this one.
That being said, the Spirit are by no means infallible. Whilst this game will undoubtedly provide Orlando with another stern test of their championship capabilities, there are weaknesses for them to exploit. The Pride have already bested the Spirit once, so far this season. They will be hoping to do it again this time around.
We all know how good this Spirit side is at taking care of the ball. I mean, we should know anyway. We've played them enough times. We've had more games against the Spirit lately, than the Star Wars prequels had bad reviews. Anyway, that being said we saw a different edge to this Washington team last time-out; a steely edge, combined with a resoluteness that underlined their recent renaissance. This is a team that won't go down easily. During their 1-0 win in Tacoma they battled exceptionally well, against a particularly rugged OL Reign. They matched their robust hosts in every duelling statistic (figure 1). As well as being a decent footballing side, they aren't afraid to get their hands dirty.
Figure 1 shows Washington's duelling stats (right), whole 90.
When you face technical players, who are able to dominate possession and defend with veracity, you have a troublesome opponent. That being said, where they do lack is on the goal-scoring front. This is a team that holds a home XG rating of 0 (figure 2), having scored 3 goals in 3 games at home (all competitions), from 12 shots on target. They're not exactly prolific in the Capitol. In fact, they have an overall conversion rate of 8.32% from 46 shots. They're not exactly clinical; the Pride, meanwhile, have an overall conversion rate of 20.3% from 29 shots. Which is much better. This Orlando team doesn't allow many shots either, 0 in their last game. And they only concede every 120 minutes right now. The Spirit may just have to be clinical.
All that being said, Orlando only have an away XG rating of 0.15 (figure 3), so I wouldn't necessarily expect a high-scoring game. Contrarily, and I'm aware I'm criss-crossing here, Orlando have scored 7 goals in 4 games during the regular season. They're no strangers to finding the back of the net . Whilst an overall XG of 0.64 for Orlando (figure 5) is lower than the Spirit's 1 (figure 4), Orlando are incredibly clinical right now. And clinical might just be enough, in what looks set to be a closely fought affair.
Figure 2 shows Washington's home XG rating on the season so far.
Figure 3 shows Orlando's away XG on the season so far.
Figure 4 shows Washington's overall XG on the season so far.
Figure 5 shows Orlando's overall XG on the season so far.
Washington Spirit will have almost a full complement of players, heading into this game. Paige Nielsen remains on the injury report. The Spirit came through their latest win, over OL Reign, without any further injury concerns.
Similar story for Orlando, with Jade Moore being the only real injury concern for the Pride. The Lionesses midfielder is understood to be edging closer to fitness, though it remains to be seen if this game is a little too soon. Edit (6/6/21), Sydney LeRoux is now listed as questionable, and Erin McLeod is unavailable as she is on international duty. Kaylie Collins has been signed as a NTRP.
Possible starting XI
I can see Richie Burke sticking with the same XI that brought him success in Tacoma. Afterall, that particular line-up was largely unchanged from their previous win over the Dash. In total, they made 2 changes. One of which was enforced. Tara McKeown impressed, in place of Trinity Rodman. We all know how much Rodman has taken the league by storm, but I cannot see why they would willingly change a winning formula on a rest week. As such, I think they'll line-up in their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, as follows:
Ashley Sanchez had, arguably, her most complete game as a professional in the Spirit's recent win over OL Reign. Having registered 2 shots, 4 key passes, 3 tackles and 5 drawn fouls, she was a menace throughout the entire game. Her intelligent movement and close ball control make her a tricky opponent. She's a player with a low centre of gravity, who is able to drop her shoulder and draw fouls in key areas. What does she do, if you don't foul her, I hear you ask? She'll probably show her defender in a clean pair of heels, or find a killer pass. Orlando will need to get to grips with her quickly.
Washington have started their season in decent form overall, despite a tricky first two games. Their opening day draw with Orlando was followed by a lackustre defeat in Louisville. They've since bounced back with successive wins over the Houston Dash and OL Reign. As a result they are currently 2-1-1 on the season, and sit 2nd in the NWSL standings.
Orlando, on the other hand, remain the only unbeaten team in the league. Currently sitting on a 3-1-0 record, the Pride are the suprise package of the season so far. Having clocked 3 wins in a week, the current league leaders will be out to make it 4 wins from 4 heading into the break.