Your undefeated Washington Spirits will take the pitch against the Orlando Pride tonight at 7pm ET. Both clubs went into the offseason after 2022 with a lot to work on, and both have emerged in 2023 with a bevy of new players and new styles of play. The Spirit have hit the ground flying more quickly than anyone (perhaps outside of the club) thought, while Orlando has had the expected ebb and flow of a new collection of players trying to jell.

However, when Orlando gets it right, they’re capable of going into San Diego and dropping three goals on a typically defensively resolute Wave team. Pride head coach Seb Hines is beginning to find attacking and defensive footing within the side, but the Spirit are a bit further along in their development and could pose problems their opponent have yet to see, let alone solve.

For the Spirit, their excellent unbeaten run to start the season has taken them from a team expected to have inconsistent or poor results, to one expected to win. That shift can have an impact on expectations and sudden external pressures to perform. The Spirit are still a team in development, and will have to find ways to block out the noise to continue their progress.

Location: Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL
Time: 7:00pm ET
Referee: Thomas Snyder
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com (int’l)

Key Player: Trinity Rodman

The Spirit have scored ten goals in the regular season so far, and of those ten only two were scored by someone other than Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch (Sanchez, Metayer). As the Spirit continue building their system more names are likely to be added, but for now Rodman remains the club’s most consistent shot creator, averaging 4.19 shot creating actions (SCA) per 90 minutes, Ashley Sanchez is second with 2.95.

Rodman has been relishing her new role and expanded freedom she has as one of two strikers. Hatch being a classic center forward allows Rodman to pop up anywhere she wants along the backline, while Hatch still provides a threat between center backs. Also, it’s Rodman’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate than demanding the camera time that comes with dropping a hat trick? We can think of no other.

Watch Out For: Adriana

Adriana has one goal and one assist in the league so far but she’s growing more comfortable within coach Seb Hines’s system, and has started to influence games. Adriana arrived from Brazilian club Corinthians prior to the season, and totaled eight shots in her first four games (all competitions). In the most recent four she’s doubled that number, and was a constant terror for Casey Stoney’s San Diego Wave as Orlando got their best result of the season, beating them 3-1.

Adriana is skilled at getting by defenders 1v1 and is adept at using the space she creates to unleash wicked shots or line up teammates to shoot at goal. The Spirit will not only need to mark her closely, but also must be alert to teammates trying to find gaps for the Brazilian to help them target.

Challenges

The season is still young, but the 2023 Washington Spirit aren’t a secret anymore. Their unexpected start has led to a lot of written and podcast discussion about their undefeated league run, and how they’ve achieved it. Head coach Mark Parsons has guarded against early celebrations or hype by stressing that the team is nowhere near their capabilities, and must make recent good performances their baseline.

Orlando is a team with enough weapons to cause problems, particularly if a team takes them for granted. Having recently defeated the Pride 4-2 in a Challenge Cup match could also factor into conscious or subconscious assumptions. This league has a way of humbling teams, the Spirit must make sure their good run isn’t ended by a drop in concentration.

Injury Report

Washington Spirit – OUT: Bayley Feist (lower leg); Anna Heilferty (knee – SEI); Tori Huster (lower leg – SEI); QUESTIONABLE: None

Orlando Pride – OUT: Carrie Lawrence (SEI – knee); QUESTIONABLE: Thais Reiss (lower leg); INT’L DUTY: Amanda Allen (Canada)

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