– Live Stream (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET) –
Boyds, Md. (July 9, 2013) – The Washington Spirit will meet a new opponent for the last time in the inaugural NWSL season when the Chicago Red Stars make the first of two appearances at Maryland SoccerPlex on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Both sides have struggled at times this season, with eighth place Washington (1-8-4) having lost six of its last seven matches all in shutout fashion. The Spirit fell 1-0 at the hands of first place Sky Blue FC in New Jersey on Sunday, a 74th minute goal by Monica Ocampo being the difference.
Meanwhile, sixth place Chicago (4-6-3) is trying to overcome a slow start to the year as the Red Stars seek their second winning streak of the season. They handed Western New York its third loss of the year with a 1-0 upset in their last match on July 4. Lorie Chalupny scored the winning goal in the 58th minute, her team-leading fourth of the season, while goalkeeper Erin McLeod earned her second shutout for the Red Stars.
Washington’s Diana Matheson has been a bright spot for the team so far, her five goals tied with four other players for fifth in the league. The Canadian National Team midfielder’s two assists are also tied with captain Lori Lindsey for the team lead.
Lindsey has had an impressive season of her own, as the only Spirit player to start all 13 matches and play every minute so far. The 33-year-old midfielder will look to continue her “Ironwoman” streak Wednesday against the Red Stars.
Since the Spirit promoted Reserves coach Mark Parsons to the pro job two weeks ago, the defense has improved dramatically. After allowing multiple goals in six straight games from May 16 to June 28, Washington has allowed just one in each of its two games under Parsons.
However, the offense has still struggled to produce since the coaching change, as a late penalty kick by Matheson to earn a draw against FC Kansas City on July 3 is the only goal the Spirit have produced since a 4-2 win over Seattle on May 16.
Ashlyn Harris has been solid in net for Washington, her 50 saves in just 11 starts good for fourth in NWSL. Harris’ 4.55 saves per game are better than the three league leaders in saves, who have all appeared in at least 13 matches.
McLeod is currently eighth in the league in total saves with 35, having played in just eight matches for Chicago. She has split time with Taylor Vancil, who has posted a 2-2-1 record in five starts to go along with 18 saves and seven goals allowed.
Washington will continue to lean on newcomers Conny Pohlers and Toni Pressley, who have each started every game they’ve been available for since joining the team.
Pohlers has started the Spirit’s last four matches up top since joining the team on loan from German club VfL Wolfsburg, tallying three shots. Pressley, a physical defender, has played every minute of the team’s last five matches since joining the Spirit from Russian club Ryazan VDV.
Washington and Chicago will meet three times in the final weeks of the season, with the next match-up coming on July 20 in Lisle, Ill. and the last one coming at Maryland SoccerPlex’s Maureen Hendricks Field on Aug. 7.