With six National Team players departed to their pre-World Cup Camps, Washington Spirit will roll out a somewhat unfamiliar squad tonight against Orlando Pride at Buzzard Point.
Spirit head coach Mark Parsons has been remarkably consistent in choosing his starting XI for regular season games, but the impending World Cup will force some changes on him. This game will likely see a number of rookies making their first regular season start and typical starters playing unusual positions to try to make up for the absences. Much of the burden on offense will fall on Ashley Hatch, the only remaining starting attacker, who will likely be paired with Lena Silano in the forward line, while Nicole Douglas connects them to the midfield in the number 10 role.
The steady presence of Aubrey Kingsbury and Andi Sullivan will definitely be missed. Both are relied upon not only for their skills as goalkeeper and defensive midfielder, respectively, but also their on-field leadership and ability to read opponents. Luckily, Washington has some additional veteran leadership to fall back on in the form of Nicole Barnhart.
Orlando Pride are currently ranked 10th in the NWSL season standings with a record of 4-1-8. Still, they should not be underestimated. The Pride are missing fewer of their starters than the Spirit, and they’ve already shown they have what it takes to humble top teams, including the Spirit, who they defeated 2-1 on May 20 in Orlando.
If the Spirit hope to win all three points in this match, they should look to another game against Orlando: their 4-2 home victory in the Challenge Cup on May 10, when a rookie-heavy line-up of Spirit players brought the energy and creativity needed to score 4 goals from outside the box.
Key Player: Ashley Hatch
Likely to wear the captain’s armband in the absence of Kingsbury and Sullivan, forward Ashley Hatch will be essential to Washington’s success in this match, both for leadership and goal-scoring ability. Hatch has 2 goals and 2 assists in her last 5 matches and could be looking for an opportunity to take the lead in the Golden Boot race.
Watch Out For: Messiah Bright, Anna Moorhouse
Tied with Adriana for most goals on the Pride this year at 3, Messiah Bright is a talented young attacker with a high rate of shots per minute and solid defensive skills. Goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse is one of the secrets to the Pride’s success. She’s the #2 shot-stopper in the NWSL this year, and held Washington to 1 goal earlier this season, saving 5 of 6 shots on target.
Challenges: Missing almost half of their usual starting XI, the Spirit will need to rely on rookie talent and could struggle with communication and missed passes among players who aren’t used to working together.
Washington Spirit Availability:
Out: Bayley Feist (D45 – lower leg); Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Tori Huster (SEI – lower leg)
International duty: Aubrey Kingsbury (USA); Trinity Rodman (USA); Ashley Sanchez (USA); Marissa Sheva (IRE); Andi Sullivan (USA); Riley Tanner (PAN)
Orlando Pride Availability:
Out: Carrie Lawrence (SEI – knee)
International duty: Adriana (BRA); Marta (BRA)
Location: Audi Field, Washington, DC
Kickoff time: 7 p.m. ET
Referee: Anya Voigt
Available streaming: Paramount +