Preview: Washington Spirit (h).
When? Sunday April 3 2022, 1 p.m. PT, 5 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. GMT. Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL. How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on Paramount+ for residents of North America. For international supporters, the game is being broadcast on Twitch.
*This preview has been repurposed from the Washington review a couple of weeks ago. The Orlando Pride haven't gotten off to the best of starts in this year's iteration of the NWSL Challenge Cup. The Pride have yet to score, and have only 1 point on the board. That being said, there have been plenty of encouraging signs so far; the Pride are much more resolute defensively and have a clear philosophy based on rugged defensive play and fast counter attacking.
The trip to Washington this weekend is going to provide another stern test, against one of the best forward lines in the league. The Pride will need to be at their best defensively, and will need to be efficient in transition. They're probably not going to get a whole lot of goal scoring chances, so they're going to need to take those chances when they come along.
So, without further ado, let's get stuck into another fascinating encounter for the Orlando Pride.
Washington were probably one of the most popular NWSL Championship winners in 2021, given everything that transpired off the field. In an attacking sense they're probably one of my favourite teams in this league. They haven't gotten off to the best of starts in the Challenge Cup, however with 3 straight draws.
The ownership situation has finally been concluded, and the club can look forward to brighter times ahead.
The underlying stats surrounding their 2021 success certainly underpin their claims to be the best team in the league; a 45.8% win ration, 299 shots, 34 goals and only 22 conceded (figures 1 & 2).
They have started in a similar fashion so far this season; at least in terms of their underlying statistics. So far in 2022 they have totalled 44 shots, scoring 3 times, whilst only conceding 3. Their goals for stat feels like an outlier; with only a 6.8% conversion rate from their 44 shots. That will change at some point, especially with the likes of Trinity Rodman around. Let's hope that doesn't happen this Sunday.
Figure 1 shows Washington's scoring statistics in 2021.
Figure 2 shows Washington's defensive statistics in 2021.
The Spirit are quite a direct team, and are very effective in transition. They are blessed with an abundance of pace and skill in the final third. Ashley Hatch's experience and quality with her back to goal allows the likes of Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman to get the ball in dangerous areas. The trio were responsible for 21 of the team's goals in 2021 (figure 3). Getting to grips with them is going to be key to the Pride getting anything from this game.
Figure 3 is a line-up graphic displaying the team's last starting XI (2021 Championship game) and their respective season G/A.
Pride head coach Amanda Cromwell has a few absentee concerns to deal with, most notably Brazilian legend, Marta who is on the season ending injury list. Erin McLeod (injury), Vivianna Villacorta (injury) and Caitlin Cosme (D45) are also out. Sydney Leroux is listed as questionable.
Washington Spirit have yet to report any player absences. Amber Brooks is back in contention, following her suspension.
This section will be updated with any information as it comes to light.
Possible starting XI
The Spirit's roster is looking strong this year. There hasn't been a whole lot of change, with Nicole Barnhart probably being the most notable addition. Signing the likes of Hatch and Rodman to new deals is huge. Kris Ward has favoured a 4-2-3-1 in the past, so I can see them lining up something like this:
The forward was rewarded for her stellar 2021 campaign with a record breaking new 3 year deal. Her 6 goals and 6 assists in 22 games underlined her status as one of the best players in women's soccer. She amassed 1,772 minutes, played 34 key passes and made 45 successful dribbles, at a completion rate of 44%. Her fotmob.com rating 7.55 on the season was team leading. She's athletic, explosive and destined for the top. So far in 2022, she's been dangerous; through 3 games (256 minutes), she's played 9 key passes and scored 1 goal.
Both teams are winless so far; the Spirit have gone 0-3-0 through 3 straight draws. The Pride are 0-2-1. The teams sit 3rd and 4th respectively in their 4 team group.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com and nwslsoccer.com
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com