The NWSL regular season is back! After a few weeks off for the World Cup, Washington Spirit will kick off the last third of their season tonight against the Houston Dash.
The Spirit are currently 5th in the league but only 2 points behind top-ranked North Carolina Courage and are hoping to get 3 tonight to stay in the race for a playoff spot. Not all of their USWNT players are expected to return for this match, but Washington will be reintegrating several returned World Cup players and incorporating recent transfers Annaïg Butel and Ouleymata Sarr into their play. After being short-handed for the past several matches, having the opportunity to rely on some depth and introduce some surprises for their opponents could be a benefit to the team.
The Dash have struggled to find their identity this season, switching formations regularly, including a short-lived experiment with a 3-back. With 18 points, they are currently out of the playoff range and are coming off a tough 3-0 loss in the Challenge Cup against the Chicago Red Stars. As the Spirit know from past experience, that can give any side the motivation needed to win tonight. They’ll be buoyed by their home crowd and have a strong history of facing the Spirit in Houston. The Dash have not lost to Washington in their past 6 home games.
Key Player: Ashley Hatch
The Spirit have had a series of ups and downs during the World Cup window, and every one of the ups was led by a brilliant performance by captain and leading-scorer Ashley Hatch. Hatch had three goals and one assist in her last five matches and will be key in Washington’s attack tonight.
Watch Out For: Caprice Dydasco
Houston is the lowest-scoring team in the league right now but also have the fewest goals against. Right back Caprice Dydasco has been a huge part of their defensive success. One of the best defenders in the league, Dydasco has made an astonishing 55 tackles and 47 interceptions so far this year.
Today also happens to be Dydasco’s 30th birthday, which could give her some extra motivation to put on a strong performance.
Challenges: To come home with all three points, the Spirit will need to make the most of their chances and avoid the kind of slow start that has hindered some of their earlier matches.
Previously: The Dash and Spirit played to a scoreless draw in their April 22 match in Washington.
Houston Dash Availability:
Out: Emily Curran (SEI – knee); Ella Dederick (SEI – knee); Shea Groom (SEI – knee); Devon Kerr (excused absence)
Washington Spirit Availability:
Out: Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Civana Kuhlmann (SEI – knee); Inès Jaurena (knee)
Location: Shell Energy Stadium, Houston, TX
Kickoff time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Referee: Eric Tattersall
Available TV: NBC Sports Washington
Available streaming: Paramount+