Washington Spirit are back in Buzzard Point tonight, hosting Chicago Red Stars and continuing their quest for a home game in the NWSL playoffs as the season winds down.
The Red Stars are having a rough season. Currently sitting at the bottom of the table, they’ve already been mathematically eliminated from the NWSL playoffs with five games still to go. Offseason departures, an injury to star Mal Swanson, and an owner unwilling to invest in the team he was looking to sell have been behind most of Chicago’s troubles. Better things are on the horizon, with new ownership announced this week, and the Red Stars could be energized by the news to prove they can’t be treated like an easy win.
Winless since June 18, the Spirit have tied their last three games and are 5th in the NWSL standings, but they can’t settle for a draw tonight. With Reign, Gotham FC, and NC Courage games between them and the finish line, they need all three points to stay competitive in the race for a top playoff spot. Their new 433 formation is calculated to give them more attacking options, and scoring early and often will be essential to a comfortable win tonight.
Key Player: Ouleymata Sarr
French forward Ouleymata Sarr joined the Spirit during the World Cup window and has appeared in two matches, starting last week and notching an assist to Ashley Sanchez in her first appearance. While there’s still room for communication between Sarr and her teammates to improve, her ability to pass into space for them after just a few training sessions together has impressed. After an additional week of training with the team, Sarr is poised to make a big impact on the attack tonight and could help the typically low-scoring Spirit close out the season with some wins.
Watch Out For: Ella Stevens, Bianca St. Georges
Chicago have plenty of attacking talent to keep the Spirit on their toes. Striker Ella Stevens leads the Red Stars with 4 goals and 1 assist. Winger Bianca St. Georges has had slightly less success with only 1 goal, but she leads the team in xG (expected goals) and could present a threat to Washington’s defense.
Challenges: Washington have shown they can dominate defensively, but finishing chances remains a persistent problem. Better coordination between attackers who’ve had more training time together since the World Cup should help, but they’ll need to improve both the positioning and power of their shots to beat Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
Previously: When the two teams met in Chicago this year, they tied with a goal each.
Washington Spirit Availability:
Out: Anna Heilferty (SEI – knee); Tori Huster (thigh); Civana Kuhlmann (SEI – knee); Inès Jaurena (knee)
Chicago Red Stars Availability:
Out: Samantha Feller (hip); Mallory Swanson (knee)
Location: Audi Field, Washington, DC
Kickoff time: 5 p.m. ET
Referee: Brandon Stevis
Available TV: CBS Sports Network