The Washington Spirit are back at Audi to face Orlando Pride in a midweek Challenge Cup match. The Spirit put on a show at Audi Field over the weekend as they dominated San Diego Wave on CBS. Meanwhile, the Pride won their second game in a row (a streak that began with them also defeating San Diego 3-1), topping Racing Louisville 1-0 to climb up from the bottom of the table.
The key in this matchup will likely be the approach both managers take. Washington just had their best performance of the season, but will have to fly across the country to take on Angel City in Los Angeles this coming Saturday. Orlando are a bit more fortunate, as they only have to get to Red Bull Arena by Sunday for their weekend meeting with Gotham FC.
Adding to that, the Spirit seem to be more settled in their structure and identity than Orlando. Despite the pot of gold in the form of a $1m Grand Prize for the Challenge Cup winners, Parsons may be looking at this match to give a handful of non-starters some much needed minutes. Orlando, on the other hand, will probably be looking to continue to whittle themselves toward their final form, so expect more starting players to take the pitch for the Pride than the Spirit.
Still, the Spirit have drafted and recruited well, and have loads of young players eager to impress. Undrafted rookie Paige Metayer became the first rookie attacker to score a goal this season, look for Civana Kuhlmann, Lena Silano and Nicole Douglas to try and join her.
Location: Audi Field
Time: 7:30pm ET
Referee: Joshua Encarnacion
How to watch: Paramount+ (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com (international)
Key Player: Civana Kuhlmann
It’s hard to project Parsons’ starting lineup but we’ll be a bit surprised if Kuhlmann isn’t in the starting XI. Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch played an intense game over the weekend, and will be relied on a lot to get a result over Angel City. Kuhlmann is a hard working, physical forward who can provide a stern test to a young Orlando backline. Also, Kuhlmann is very good at being decisive in the box. If she’s in the starting lineup, look for her to have a big impact.
Watch Out For: Messiah Bright
Orlando are learning that they need Messiah Bright on the pitch. Her movement and ability to occupy two center backs leaves a lot of space for creative players like Marta, Adriana and Ally Watt. Bright scored the lone goal off a well won header to defeat Racing Louisville over the weekend. The Spirit will have to manage Bright to keep her off the scoresheet, while also being aware of the spaces her movement will create for other.
The Spirit are already in a bit of a hole in the Challenge Cup since their first, and only, defeat of the year came against Gotham in the Cup’s opening round. A one goal deficit isn’t a lot to make up, but getting the full complement of points from Orlando might be needed to keep themselves in contention for the million dollar prize. It’s a tricky thing to balance, but if Parsons can get some players outside of his preferred XI some minutes and pickup a win over an ascending Orlando, that will be a job well done.
Washington Spirit – OUT: Bayley Feist (lower leg); Anna Heilferty (knee – SEI); Tori Huster (lower leg – SEI); QUESTIONABLE: None
Orlando Pride – OUT: Julie Doyle (D45 – ankle); Carrie Lawrence (SEI – knee); QUESTIONABLE: None