Washington Spirit return home to battle Houston Dash at Buzzard Point this evening. Both teams are undefeated in the regular season so far (although the Spirit have two wins to the Dash’s one) and will be looking to continue their streaks, while rebounding from Challenge Cup losses on Wednesday night.
Though coming off of a midweek game, Washington rested many of their usual starters on Wednesday and should have the full complement available to them for this match. As head coach Mark Parsons has stressed repeatedly, the Spirit are still settling into their preferred style of play; and they still have plenty of room to improve when it comes to possession and accurate passing. The return of rookie enforcer Paige Metayer from suspension should help them lock down the midfield today, freeing up Trinity Rodman to win the ball higher up the pitch and create more chances on goal.
Houston Dash will test Washington’s defense with their multifaceted attacking front, but their own defense can’t be discounted. They’ve held opponents to just two goals in three regular season games, thanks in no small part to goalkeeper Jane Campbell, who is on a shot-stopping hot streak. Coached by Sam Laity, the Dash typically use a 4-3-3 formation and rely on accurate short- and medium-length passing to break down defenses and move the ball into goal-scoring areas.
Key Player: Trinity Rodman
Trinity Rodman sat out Wednesday night’s Challenge Cup with an excused absence, and the difference was clear, as the Spirit were held scoreless and only made 5 total shots. This team relies heavily on Rodman to create scoring chances, whether that means making perfectly-placed passes to Ashley Hatch or taking on opposing defenders herself with the ball at her feet.
Watch Out For: Ebony Salmon, Maria Sánchez
Houston has a roster full of shot-takers, and Ebony Salmon is chief among them. With 10 shots in three games this season and a 50 percent accuracy, she’s guaranteed to keep Aubrey Kingsbury and the Spirit’s backline busy. Her fellow forward Maria Sánchez is even more dangerous: she’s scored two of the Dash’s three goals this season and has been nearly perfect in placing her shots on frame.
Challenges: While Washington will have their hands their hands full shutting down Houston’s attempts on goal, the bigger question may be whether they can open up enough avenues to score themselves. When Rodman is tasked with defending and opponents devote enough resources to covering Hatch, the Spirit seem to lack effective alternate plans of attack.
Previously: The Spirit and the Dash are fairly evenly matched historically, with the Spirit ahead by just one win in their 8-4-7 head-to-head record. These teams last faced each other in the final regular season game of 2022 at Audi Field, when Houston won 2-1.
Houston Dash Availability:
Out: Emily Alvarado (concussion protocol); Emily Curran (SEI – knee); Ella Dederick (SEI – knee); Makamae Gomera-Stevens (SEI – knee); Shea Groom (knee); Devon Kerr (illness); Nichelle Prince (SEI – calf); Annike Schmidt (knee)
Questionable: Joelle Anderson (thigh); Ryan Gareis (hip); Kelcie Hedge (thigh)
Washington Spirit Availability:
Out: Bayley Feist (lower leg); Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Tori Huster (SEI – lower leg)
Location: Audi Field
Kickoff time: 7 p.m.
Referee: Elton Garcia
Available streaming: Paramount+