Fresh off an international window, the Washington Spirit travel to Cary, NC, to face the North Carolina Courage tomorrow. The Courage are traditionally a tough opponent for the Spirit, although both teams are in something of a transition this year.

After two games with the same starting eleven, circumstances will force the Spirit to make some changes this week. Midfielder Paige Metayer is on a one-game suspension after getting two yellow cards against Louisville, and fellow midfielder Bayley Feist is injured. Luckily, the Spirit have a long list of midfielders on the roster who will have the chance to step up tomorrow, including Jordan Baggett and Inés Juarena who could make their first appearances of the season – and in Juarena’s case, first ever appearance for the Spirit.

Sean Nahas’s North Carolina squad are 1-1-0 to start the season. After a solid opening match against Kansas City Current, the Courage struggled against San Diego Wave, losing 3-1. Despite that outcome, the Courage have shown an ability to maintain possession through accurate passes, particularly by midfielder Denise O’Sullivan and outside back Emily Fox. Speaking before the match, Spirit head coach Mark Parsons praised North Carolina for their patience and tactical abilities.

This game will be the first NWSL game on CBS Sports’s new Golazo Network, a 24/7 soccer streaming channel that is available for free on CBSSports.com, Paramount+, and PlutoTV.

Key Player: Ashley Hatch

Washington’s last game showed the beginnings of what the team hopes to be as they settle into the season, and based on the two goals they scored in the first half, Ashley Hatch is a big part of the plan. Hatch has been the Spirit’s top goal-scorer for a few seasons now, but Parsons’s 4-4-2 system is calculated to give her even more scoring opportunities by freeing her up to run in behind defenders to hunt for goals.

Watch Out For: Kerolin, Mille Gejl

Brazilian forward Kerolin is one of the most exciting NWSL players to watch, lethal both when dribbling the ball and receiving it in dangerous areas. When asked about the team’s preparations to defend against her, Parsons compared her with all-time leading NWSL scorer Sam Kerr and spoke about the importance of limiting service to her. Mille Gejl is new to the NWSL this year and has put in a strong performance for the Courage so far, with just one fewer shots on goal than Kerolin and the team’s only non-penalty goal after the first two matches.

Challenges: The Spirit are missing two of their starters, while many of those remaining have only just returned from international duty and may be on managed minutes as the team prepares to play three games in the next eight days. The team will have to rely on its depth, which includes several rookie players, to pull through with a win.

Previously: The Courage got the better of Washington last year, although each game between the two was a goal-fest with a combined total of 22 goals in 5 regular season and Challenge Cup games.

North Carolina Courage Availability:

Out: Tess Boade (shoulder), Emily Gray (SEI – knee), Estelle Johnson (lower leg)

Questionable: Tyler Lussi (leg)

Washington Spirit Availability:

Out: Bayley Feist (lower leg), Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee), Tori Huster (SEI – lower leg), Paige Metayer (suspension – card accumulation), Riley Tanner (lower leg)

Questionable: None

Location: Wake Med Soccer Park

Kickoff time: 7 p.m. EST

Referee: Adorae Monroy

Available streaming: Golazo Network, Paramount+

ByAnnie Elliott

Mostly writing about the Washington Spirit

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