The Washington Spirit has been on form but faces his toughest task yet in the 2022 Challenge Cup as he sets off to face North Carolina Courage. Since falling behind this Courage side by two goals at Audi Field, the Spirits have outscored their opponents 9-2 and come back in that game to earn a tie before going on to great wins in the next two games. However, North Carolina has the edge when it comes to making the knockout rounds and the Spirit will likely need their second win in Cary to progress in the tournament.
key players: Julia Roddar
The backbone of Washington’s lineup has been fairly marred by absences during the Challenge Cup, which among other things has resulted in Roddar spending as much time at midfield as she does at left-back, where she went into the year as a scheduled starter. While her performances in 2021 seemed to underscore that she’s better at width than centre, Roddar has done well in 2022 when she’s had to play center, even if the adjustment is an in-game improvisation that stems from injuries elsewhere based.
However, there are few tasks in women’s football that are tougher than playing as a midfielder on the road against a side with Debinha and that is the job Roddar has today. With Andi Sullivan and Dorian Bailey both listed as questionable and Taylor Aylmer suspended, Roddar’s ability to disrupt NC’s attacking play, pursue runners and play from that typical level of gut pressure will be key if the Spirit does will win, they will most likely have to continue in the Challenge Cup.
Location: Sahlens Stadium (Cary, NC)
kick-off time: 1:00 p.m. East
Projected Spirit from 11: (4231) – Aubrey Kingsbury; Kelley O’Hara, Amber Brooks, Karina Rodriguez, Camryn Biegalski; Emily Sonnett, Julia Roddar; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, Anna Heilferty; Ashley Hatch
Bank: Devon Kerr, Nicole Barnhart, Alia Martin, Morgan Goff, Andi Sullivan, Dorian Bailey, Jordan Baggett, Bayley Feist, Tinaya Alexander
First the injury report:
#NCvWAS Availability report (1/2)#OneSpirit
Out: Aylmer (suspension), Collins (knee), Huster (Achilles tendon), McKeown (foot), Staab (Covid protocol), Vincent (calf)
Doubtful: Bailey (ankle), Sullivan (calf)#NWSL #NWSLChallengeCup
— Jason Anderson (@JasonDCsoccer) April 23, 2022
Staab’s absence with Aylmer suspended, Vincent still trying to recover from a stubborn calf problem and both Sullivan and Bailey still only questionable with punches put Washington in a difficult position. Sonnett, Rodríguez and Brooks have all played a few NWSL minutes in defensive midfield, but between a) the challenge of fighting in that space with Debinha and b) the need to prepare Rodríguez and Brooks for a summer that Sonnett very likely means will be gone for weeks informs our guess that these two will be the centre-back duo and that Sonnett will start in midfield.
If Sullivan or Bailey are free, however, they would step in directly, and Sonnett would likely move into a more familiar role. Kris Ward confirmed to reporters that Roddar will be back in midfield while the rest of the line-up is more or less straightforward at the moment.
Projected Courage from 11: (4222) – Katelyn Rowland; Merritt Mathias, Kaleigh Kurtz, Abby Erceg, Jaelene Daniels; Meredith Speck, Denise O’Sullivan; Debinha, Kiki Pickett; Taylor Smith, Kerolin
Sean Nahas has kept his team on the brink of promotion despite Casey Murphy being out of goal through injury and while rotating at least one player in his front six in every game so far. He might have to do that again here as left-back Carson Pickett is listed as questionable on the injury report:
The knock-on effect here, when Pickett needs the game, seems likely to see Daniels transitioning into more familiar territory at full-back after spending the season so far playing up front. That would open a start for Brazilian striker Kerolin, although Jorian Baucom and Rylee Baisden have both also started in a Challenge Cup game. However, Nahas could also leave Daniels in front, move Kiki Pickett to left back and start Brianna Pinto alongside Debinha.
Referee: Eric Tattersall
Available TV: CBS… like, big CBS, the one that comes over the air
Available streaming: Paramount+ (US), Twitch (international). If you subscribe to Paramount+ using this link, your friends at B&RU will get some cash!
What do we have to say about this?: Our reaction to Spirit’s latest win includes a breakdown of what today’s result means for the team’s prospects in the knockout rounds of the Challenge Cup.
What are you drinking?: I’m taking this from home before I head out tonight after the DC United game press conference and what I have available is… I think iced tea? I have to go shopping tomorrow. So ice tea.
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