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By Owen Krucoff
Boyds, Md., (6/28/19) – The Washington Spirit are looking to defend their first-place position this Saturday in a clash with the NWSL’s defending champions, the North Carolina Courage, at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The team will be celebrating Teacher Appreciation Night as it looks to extend its record unbeaten streak to eight games.
Here are some notable Spirit stats to keep in mind ahead of Saturday’s 7 p.m. ET kickoff.
The Spirit have been a tough opponent to face at the SoccerPlex this year, assembling an unbeaten record of 3-0-2 through the first five home games. The 11-point haul is already more points than the Spirit earned at home all of last season. Of the four NWSL teams currently with unbeaten home records, the Spirit are the only side with three victories.
Washington has been the league’s best side in terms of ball retention, giving up possession fewer times than any other team. Forward Cali Farquharson and midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard are at the forefront of this, as they are each among the NWSL’s top five players with the fewest giveaways per game (minimum five games and 300 minutes played).
This week’s game could be in for plenty of late drama as the league’s two best second half offenses meet. Of the 30 total goals the two teams have scored this season, 23 have come after the halftime break. The Spirit are second in the league with 69% of their 13 goals coming in the second half, while the Courage lead the way with 82% of their strikes taking place in the last 45.
The Spirit have been great at getting on the front foot this season. The team has scored the opening goal in six of its first nine games, the second-highest total in the league. Washington is unbeaten in those matches, with five wins and one draw. The team has also conceded the opening goal in a game just once, tied for the fewest times in the NWSL.
Spirit defender Paige Nielsen has been heavily involved in the team’s possessions this season, taking over the ball an average of nearly once per minute. Fellow defender Sam Staab is not far behind with 79 touches per 90, good for fifth in the league.