Spirit face Dash in final fixture of Challenge Cup preliminary stage

Washington Spirit  |   July 11, 2020
Spirit face Dash in final fixture of Challenge Cup preliminary stage Featured Image

HERRIMAN, UT – JULY 05: Ashley Sanchez #2 of Washington Spirit plays the ball during a game between Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns FC at Zions Bank Stadium on July 05, 2020 in Herriman, Utah.

Boyds, Md. (7/11/20) – The Washington Spirit will play their final game of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup preliminary round against the Houston Dash on July 12 at 12:30 pm ET at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, UT. The game will be streamed live on CBS All-Access.

During the 2019 season, the Spirit split the season series against the Dash with two draws and one loss, and have a record of seven wins, three draws and seven losses over their history. Both teams will be heading into this match with a total of four points, tied for second place in the preliminary standings, which are used to seed teams for the knockout stages that begin next week.

The Opposition

In their first three matches, the Dash have earned a total of four points by tying their first fixture against Utah 3-3, winning their second against OL Reign 2-0 and losing their last one on Wednesday against Sky Blue 2-0. 

Ahead of their penultimate preliminary round matchup, the Dash will look to recapture the momentum built through their first two matches. To do so, the Dash will rely on the three players who have carried the load offensively in Kristie Mewis (1 goal), Rachel Daly (2) and Shea Groom (2) to manage the team in the attacking third of the field.

Similarly to the Spirit, the Dash could look towards their centerbacks Katie Naughton and Megan Oyster as key pieces of the offense due to Houston’s propensity to build attacks from the back. Both players, who lead the Dash in passes complete, have each completed 143 total passes for a combined total of 286.

The Spirit

So far, the Spirit have four points heading into their last match before the knockout stage, winning their first match against the Chicago Red Stars 2-1, falling against the North Carolina Courage 2-0 and tying against the Thorns 1-1.

The Spirit have shown the team is confident building their attack from their own defensive third, which makes the strong centerback pairing of Sam Staab and Paige Nielsen crucial to the game. Nielsen recorded the highest number of passes in the Spirit’s last match with 52, while Staab had the highest number of clearances with six. Additionally, midfielder Andi Sullivan, who has won 88.9% of all her tackles, will be essential in stopping the Dash attack through the midfield.

Furthermore, in the attacking third of the field, the Spirit will be looking to get forward Ashley Hatch on the ball. Hatch leads the Spirit in number of shots and shots on goal, with six shots and four on goal, and one goal to her name. Forward Kumi Yokoyama could play a crucial role in the Spirit’s attack, as she recorded a 90% passing accuracy in the opposition’s half of the field.

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