After their first loss of the regular season last week, Washington Spirit are back at home to take on NJ/NY Gotham FC this evening, with the top of the league standings in reach for both teams.
The Spirit had a number of problems to fix after last weekend’s game against Orlando Pride: they lacked their usual intensity and created few chances. Among the forwards, Trinity Rodman only made two shots, and Ashley Hatch didn’t even get one. Despite the poor performance, head coach Mark Parsons said his team is improving at reading opponents and adjusting to challenges during a game, as well as bringing their principles to every match.
One of those principles is a focus on defense: “Closer to our goal, I made it very clear to our team: we will give up some opportunity in building the attack, in position, to make sure we are defending,” Parsons said. “We can’t change the league that we’re in. It is a league that has pace and quality in every team. Every single team can hurt you in transition. No other league in the world has that.”
Gotham FC will put the Spirit to the test in that area. With a flexible play style that can frustrate opponents, they’ve been one of the toughest teams to beat in the NWSL this season. Gotham’s last match was a dominant 4-1 victory over OL Reign that shows how far that team has come from their last-place finish in the 2022 season, bringing their record to 5-1-2 (W-D-L).
Washington will have one big thing in their favor: playing in front of a home crowd. The team remains undefeated in games at their Buzzard Point home this year and has conceded only one regular season home goal.
Key Player: Andi Sullivan
Andi Sullivan’s performance is essential to Washington Spirit’s success. The defensive midfielder is an on-field general, directing teammates into open spaces and using her positioning and passes to switch play and neutralize opponents’ midfields. Sullivan also gave the team one of their best chances to score last week, taking an outside-the-box shot on goal that was just barely pushed over the goal for a save.
Watch Out For: Lynn Williams, Abby Smith
Forward Lynn Williams is Gotham’s leading goal scorer and a leader in the Golden Boot race, with 5 goals so far this season. Williams is also known for her defensive work. She leads her team in tackles won and is tied for second in interceptions.
Goalkeeper Abby Smith boasts an incredible 29 saves and 82.9 percent save rate so far this season, meaning the Spirit will have to work harder than ever to score.
Challenges: Can the Spirit create more opportunities for their dual forwards to score? While defensively strong, the Spirit have been a low-scoring team this season, and last week’s match highlighted a continuing need to improve their methods of getting the ball to attackers in their opponents’ defensive third.
Previously: Gotham and the Spirit faced off in a Challenge Cup match on April 19, which Gotham won 1-0. Last season, the teams both earned three points off of each other at home.
NJ/NY Gotham FC Availability:
Out: Imani Dorsey (excused absence); Kelley O’Hara (ankle); Midge Purce (hip); Taryn Torres (SEI – knee)
Washington Spirit Availability:
Out: Bayley Feist (D45 – lower leg); Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Tori Huster (SEI – lower leg); Chloe Ricketts (arm)
Location: Audi Field, Washington, DC
Kickoff time: 5 p.m. ET
Referee: Karen Callado
Available streaming: Paramount+