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Boyds, Md. (9/10/20) – The Washington Spirit will face the Chicago Red Stars in the second match of the 2020 NWSL Fall Series on Saturday, September 12 at 12 pm ET, which will be broadcast live on Twitch.
We broke down some of the important stats from the opening match of the Fall Series and the Challenge Cup to keep in mind ahead of the Spirit’s second match.
In the opening matchup against Sky Blue FC, the Washington Spirit completed a total of 502 passes. As is customary for the Richie Burke-led team, the Spirit looked to work the ball around the field, trying to break the levels of Sky Blue’s defense.
So much of how the Spirit play is predicated upon player’s abilities to maintain possession and distribute. Enter Paige Nielsen. She is the ideal center-back to work within Burke’s system as she is strong and poised on the ball. She completed 91 of an attempted 102 passes in game one (89.2%) and was a major reason why the Spirit finished the match with a successful passing rate of 86.1% as a team.
Allowing less than a goal per game (.80 goals-against rate) at the Challenge Cup, the Spirit established themselves as an imposing defensive team. In the Fall Series opener, the Spirit won 62.1% of their defensive duels. Tough tackling from Nielsen, Sam Staab and Dorian Bailey led to an impressive win rate with respect to duels won.
After returning to training from several weeks off following the Challenge Cup, match fitness was always going to be an early concern. In the first game back, Burke opted to use all five substitutes he was allotted. Swapping out half of his field players gave Burke the opportunity not only to rest some tired legs, but also evaluate some of his younger and more inexperienced players.
Meghan McCool, for example, had a team-high three tackles, three recoveries and added one clearance. McCool also got forward several times and completed 64% of her passes.
Eight of the players who played against Sky Blue are in their first seasons with the Spirit. Players such as Ashley Sanchez and Kumi Yokoyama featured consistently in the Challenge Cup. However, for Jaye Boissiere, Averie Collins, Brooke Hendrix, Natalie Jacobs, Katie McClure and McCool, they either received their debuts for the Spirit or built upon minimal minutes from the Challenge Cup.
In the opening match of the Challenge Cup, the Red Stars attempted an astounding 31 crosses against the Spirit. Washington meanwhile only managed 10. Chicago presented a challenge on the wings all night long, but despite their effectiveness at putting the ball into the box from wide areas, Chicago only managed six good crosses (as determined by Opta Statisticians) while the Spirit created five good crosses.