Preview: Washington Spirit (a).
Updated: Jul 17
When? Sunday July 17 2 p.m. PT, 5 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. BST.
Where? Audi Field, Washington, DC.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on Paramount+ for residents of the United States, and on Twitch for international supporters.
The Orlando Pride head into this game off the back of a promising result last time-out. The challenge that awaits them in the capital is a daunting one. The likes of Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman etc, will not be available, as the USWNT take on Canada next week. But still, there's quality on this Spirit team, despite recent results. I know that might seem crazy talk. The Spirit have massively underperformed. They are winless in 13 across all competitions, but sometimes a wounded animal is the most dangerous.
The Pride will treat the game with the utmost respect. That being said they will take confidence from their last couple of results and are certainly more than capable of getting a result against this Washington Spirit side, particularly if they are without their international stars. Those stars have sort of become the face of the team, yet they'll be conspicuous only in their absence this weekend. Just like Temuera Morrison in Book of Boba Fett. The Fett effect, I'm going to call it.
The Spirit have had an awful season so far, which will be a huge disappointment to the team that won the 2021 NWSL Championship. They made the final of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, but they've been on a downward spiral ever since.
This is a team that's heavily reliant on its international stars, with 8 of their starters currently away on international duty. That's a huge chunk of talent to rip away from this team. Whilst they still possess quality, there's no doubting that they are an entirely different prospect when they have a full compliment of players.
Generally, the Spirit are an attacking team, with players that love to play between the lines. I would expect McKeown to run all across the line, look at McKeown's pass positioning matrix from the game against Kansas City (figure 1) and San Diego (figure 2). She's not a static forward, and their forward line is generally fluid. Expect McKeown to try and stretch the defence and allow the likes of Bayley Feist and Rachel Shiva to get in and around McKeown to cause the Pride issues defensively.
Figure 1 shows Tara McKeown's pass positioning matrix vs Kansas City Current.
Figure 2 shows Tara McKeown's pass positioning matrix from the bench vs Sand Diego Wave
The Spirit are without their USWNT assets Andi Sullivan, Ashley Hatch, Aubrey Kingsbury, Ashley Sanchez, Emily Sonnett, Kelley O'Hara and Trinity Rodman. Tori Huster remains on the season injury ending list. They made the final of the NWSL Challenge Cup this season, but lost that and have been on a downward spiral ever since.
As for the Pride, Julie Doyle has been back in training and could be available. The team are still set to be without Angharad James (excused absence), Leah Pruitt and Parker Roberts (injury). Marta remains on the season ending injury list. Carrie Lawrence is also out (Covid).
Possible starting XI
The Spirit are without a number of key players for this game. I would expect to see an XI fairly similar to that, that featured against Kansas City Current last time-out:
McKeown was picked up during the 2021 NWSL Draft and has struggled for game time and goals. The form of the likes of Ashley Sanchez and fellow draftee Trinity Rodman have made minutes hard to come by. Don't be fooled by her goals record, though. McKeown is a talented player. She's got intelligent movement and close control. She got an assist in her last game (vs San Diego), and has completed 3 dribbles and hit 3 shots on target during her 2 NWSL games so far. With Rodman et al still gone, the onus will be on her to perform.
It's been 11 NWSL regular season games since Washington last tasted victory. They currently sit 11th in the standings with a 1-6-5 record.
The Pride, meanwhile, sit 9th with a 3-3-5 record having picked up a draw and a win in their last 2 games.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Top player image courtesy of Washington Spirit.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com