Washington Spirit vs Chicago Red Stars preview: A second round in Maryland and desperate for a win
Washington Spirit vs Chicago Red Stars Preview: A second round in Maryland and desperate for a win

The Washington Spirit will host the Chicago Red Stars on the LifeTime Game of the Week in Boyds, Maryland on Saturday afternoon. Both teams have suffered difficult seasons and will be looking to make their way into the playoff race. The Spirit (2W-2D-6L) sit in eighth place on the league table while the Red Stars (2W-6D-3L) sit in sixth. The two teams will be looking to break the stalemate after playing to a 1-1 draw on the same field back on April 28th.

Both teams are missing players

Injuries and national team duties will make this game more about depth than raw talent. The Spirit will be playing without wunderkind Mallory Pugh who is suffering knee swelling and forward Francisca Ordega who is away playing for Nigeria. Those absences will leave the offensive duties squarely on forward Ashley Hatch and the attacking midfielders behind her. Hatch has scored three goals on 30 shots this season. She will likely need to be more efficient if the Spirit are going to earn their third win of the season.

The Red Stars got some good injury news coming into this meeting. Defender Casey Short and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo are listed as questionable for the first time in 2018 after missing the first 11 matches of the season with injuries. It is unknown whether they will be match fit, but they are clearly moving in the right direction. Other than injuries, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, midfielder Julie Ertz and forward/midfielder Sofia Huerta will all be unavailable for the game due to their duties with the United States Women's National Team. The USWNT camp started on June 1st in preparation for a pair of friendly matches against China. In Naeher's absence, it is expected that Emily Boyd will fill the starting goalkeeper role.

Francisca Ordega (front) is one of five players certain to be absent for the match on Saturday. | Photo: Tony Quinn
Francisca Ordega (front) is one of five players certain to be absent for the match on Saturday. | Photo: Tony Quinn

Defensive weaknesses threaten the teams

Both Washington and Chicago have struggled on defense this season. The two teams are averaging about 1.5 goals per game allowed, putting them toward the bottom of the league in defensive performance. Last weekend exemplified the defensive struggles that the two teams have faced. Chicago lost 5-2 at home to the Orlando Pride and have now gone seven matches without a win. The team has dropped from second to sixth in the standings during their winless streak. Washington lost a close 3-2 contest against the Houston Dash in Houston.

The Red Stars will be looking to forwards Sam Kerr and Alyssa Mautz to generate offense and put points on the board early against Washington. Kerr and Mautz have scored a combined seven goals on the season. In addition to Hatch, the Spirit will be hoping for more impressive play from Argentine midfielder Estefania Banini who led the Spirit with three shots on goal last weekend. This game will likely be decided by which coach can make the best formation changes with so many starting players absent from the lineup.

Washington will host Chicago at 3:50 pm ET on LifeTime. Game coverage will start at 3:30 with a pregame show.