Seattle Reign FC (5W-3D-2L) have rolled through the first three months of the season, winning half of their games and working their way up to second in the standings despite playing fewer games than most of the other teams in the league. The Washington Spirit (2W-3D-7L) have floundered their way to eighth place in the league despite adding a plethora of talented players during the offseason. After failing to make use of their talent, the Spirit are facing a new challenge as their best player, forward Mallory Pugh suffered a knee injury and is out for at least eight weeks.
Handicapping a lopsided match
Any team in the NWSL can win any match given the right bounces, but on its face this match looks like an uphill battle for the home team. In their first meeting of the season, the Reign took a 2-0 lead off goals by Megan Rapinoe and Jodie Taylor in the first half before Joanna Lohman pulled the Spirit to within one in the second.
The Reign have been finding ways to win all season. Coached by Vlatko Andonovski, the Reign defense has allowed a league-best eight goals in their ten matches this season. This is a far cry from the 2017 version of the Reign where the defense was periodically nonexistent during parts of the season. The offense, on the other hand, has been lacklustre. Averaging just 1.3 goals per game, the Reign are sitting squarely in the middle of the league after being on the top in 2017. Fortunately for Seattle, this is the type of game where a solid defense and a mediocre offense is enough to win it. Rapinoe has been one of the best players in the league so far this season having scored five goals.
The Spirit are struggling mightily this season. The defense, despite adding Taylor Smith and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, has allowed 17 goals in the first half of the season. Forwards Ashley Hatch and Francisca Ordega have both had relatively successful seasons scoring three goals each, but they have six of the ten goals that the team has scored this year. The biggest letdown this season has certainly been the Spirit midfield. Rookie midfielder Andi Sullivan has not integrated into the professional game yet, and Rose Lavelle is still working her way back from a ten-month hamstring recovery. The midfield needs to exert control on the game if the Spirit want to earn a win against Seattle.
Washington is struggling to find meaning in their season. Even winning half of their remaining games would probably not vault them into the playoff race, but Seattle is looking back at Orlando, Portland, and Chicago bearing down on them in the standings.
The Reign are coming into this match mostly healthy. The Spirit have suffered a litany of injuries of late, with Pugh, Havana Solaun, Mallory Eubanks, and Whitney Church all featured on the injury report.
How to watch
The match will take place at 7:00 pm ET at Maureen Hick's Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The game will be broadcast on go90.com and the Go90 app.