The second half of the NWSL season kicks off tonight for the Washington Spirit when they face off against Kansas City Current in Kansas City. The impact of a potential win could hardly be more different for these teams: the Spirit are in reach of first place, while the Current are last in the league and need to start racking up wins to make a playoff run.
To help manage minutes in a stretch of 4 games in 14 days, the Spirit rested their starters and put on a heavily rotated squad in their Wednesday night loss to North Carolina Courage. Forwards Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch didn’t play at all and should hopefully have the energy they’ll need tonight to lead the Spirit’s attack, which has become more consistent in recent games. The team should remain solid on defense, especially because goalkeeper and captain Aubrey Kingsbury is expected to return after leaving last weekend’s game early with a head injury.
Although they made some big moves in the offseason to acquire talented free agents, Kansas City have struggled with injury and are currently in last place in the NWSL standings with a record of 3-0-8 (W-D-L). They have seemed to gel a bit more recently, particularly in their 4-0 domination of Chicago Red Stars on Wednesday, a game that showed the talent and versatility of Kansas City’s offense. The Current will look to stretch the Spirit’s diamond midfield and attack from out wide to begin a run at the playoffs.
Spirit head coach Mark Parsons said his team is not approaching this match like an easy win. “We’re probably playing one of the teams with the liveliest and most energetic forward line and midfield of the last two weeks,” he said of the Current. “This is going to be a big challenge, and we’re aware of that.”
Key Player: Ashley Hatch
Ashley Hatch is back to her scoring ways after getting a goal in open play last weekend. As the team’s designated PK taker and a forward with keen positional sense, Hatch will have a chance to play for the top of the Golden Boot race this weekend, where she currently sits in second place with 6 goals to Kerolin’s 8. She’s also grown her game as a chance-creator, having tied her own personal record for assists in just the first half of the season.
Watch Out For: Debinha, Cece Kizer
One of the most talented attacking players in the NWSL, Brazilian midfielder Debinha leads her team with 4 goals and 1 assist this season. Forward CeCe Kizer is right behind Debinha with 3 goals and 1 assist, and she has a knack for scoring against the Spirit. Kizer scored in both of the Current’s games against Washington last year. Finding ways to keep both Current attackers off the ball will be a challenge for the Spirit in this match.
Challenges: Kansas City need a win to start this half of the season strong, and the Spirit will have to stay in control of play and connect their passes on the attack to come away with all three points.
Previously: This is the first match-up between these teams in 2023, but Kansas City beat Washington in both of their games last season.
Kansas City Current Availability:
Out: Hannah Glas (D45 – knee); Lo’eau LaBonta (knee); Claire Lavogez (SEI – knee); Alex Loera (foot); Sam Mewis (SEI – knee); Desiree Scott (D45 – knee); Jordan Silkowitz (hand); Mallory Weber (SEI – knee)
Washington Spirit Availability:
Out: Maddie Elwell (thigh); Bayley Feist (D45 – lower leg); Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Tori Huster (SEI – lower leg)
Location: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, KS
Kickoff time: 7 p.m.
Referee: Natalie Simon
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington
Available streaming: Paramount+