• Dan Berridge

Preview: Washington Spirit (a).

When? August 22, 1 p.m. PT, 4 p.m. ET & 9 p.m. BST.

Where? Audi Field, Washington D.C.

How can I catch the action? CBS Sports Network (and the CBS App) for residents of the United States. The game will be broadcast on Twitch (twitch.tv and via the Twitch app) for international supporters.


It's fair to say that the Washington Spirit aren't exactly everyone's favourite team right now. The bullying culture cultivated and facilitated by messrs Richie Burke and Steve Baldwin, has manifested itself publicly and provided further tarnish to a league that hasn't exactly covered itself in glory of late.


I read an article earlier this week, written by R.J. Allen of Backline Soccer, that provided an intriguing insight on the challenges faced by content creators and writers covering this league. It got me thinking. Whilst I haven't (thankfully) borne witness to, or indeed been made privy to, any acts as heinous as those initiated by Burke, I think it's necessary to take a stand. This sort of behaviour is abhorrent and unacceptable. That's it, it's as simple as that. And the Washington Spirit ownership would do well to take responsibility for what they have allowed their players to be subjected to. Though, with their recent appointment of Anson Dorrance, we probably shouldn't hold our breath.

As sympathetic as we all undoubtedly are to the plight of the Spirit's players, there's probably never been a better time to play them. Which is a sad indictment of the situation, and a miserable anecdote, symptomatic of the wider issue of bullying and harassment within women's sports.


For me, personally, any Orlando Pride victory (as welcome as such results always are) will have a bitter sweet feeling. Some things just transcend soccer. I'm an abuse survivor myself, I have learned to speak candidly about my experiences, and as someone who has battled mental health issues, I take precious little pleasure in kicking someone whilst they're down. Even if said kick involves the literal kicking of a football. I can't help but feel such a win would smack of such a sentiment.


That being said, there's a game of football afoot; one that needs to be won by someone. So it might as well be our sheroes in purple. So, without further ado let's get stuck into this one...


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Washington's style


It's difficult to ascertain exactly how this club is going to approach this fixture, which is an inevitable side effect of a change in leadership. Regardless of the circumstances. Kris Ward has had only a few games in charge. We do know this, though. The Washington Spirit are a talented team, and one that no longer has to play with the dark shadow of fear lurking over their shoulders.


They rank 3/10 in terms of their overall XG, with a very respectable 1.31 as well as a solid 1.17 at home. Having scored 16 goals from 147 shots, which makes for an 11.6% conversion rate. They're a solid team in an attacking sense as well as a defensive sense; they have an XGa rating of 0.77 at home.


They're also a good footballing side, who like to get the ball down and play. Their technical players allow them to play this way. They play with a short passing style, which is reflected in their passing statistics. Only 2 teams have played more than the Spirit's 6,186 passes, with only 11.64% of those being long balls. They prefer the ball on the deck. They also have a 79.8% pass completion rate. So, they're good at it. The transition game is going to be key for Orlando, as Orlando might get precious little opportunity to win the turnovers.

Figure 1 shows Washington's XG stats.

Figure 2 shows Washington's possession statistics.


Team news


The NWSL injury report has been unhelpfully vague. Whilst the Washington Spirit have no injury or disciplinary concerns, we know the Orlando Pride have had issues with the fitness of Carrie Lawrence and Jade Moore. Yet neither are listed on the injury report. Alex Morgan is back in market, but it remains to be seen whether she will be involved in this game. Any updates will be added to this segment accordingly. The Spirit are expected to welcome their Olympians back for this one.


Possible starting XI


The Spirit have utilised a fairly settled line-up for much of the season, so I wouldn't expect too many drastic changes. I would expect them to line-up in their familiar 4-3-3 formation as such:

Top player


Trinity Rodman

For me, she has the potential to establish herself as one of the league's shining lights. She's carrying on her family's proud sporting heritage with all the charisma and charm of somebody who is not just a top competitor, but also a ruddy likeable person. You can't help but cheer for her (except when she faces Orlando, of course). In 12 starts and 2 substitute appearances so far this season, Rodman has scored 4 times and laid on 2 assists. She has a conversion rate of 13.3% from 30 attempts. She's also displayed her creative capabilities with 19 key passes and 4 successful crosses. She'll be a threat, assuming she plays.

Form


The Washington Spirit haven't been having the best of times lately, on or off the field. They currently sit 6th in the standings with a 5-4-5 record. They're currently winless in 3.


Orlando meanwhile, have had a noticeable uptick since their own change in leadership. With a 5-6-4 record, Becky Burleigh's team currently sit 4th having picked up a win and 2 draws in their last 3 games.

*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com and footystats.org.

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