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Boyds, Md. (9/24/20) – The Washington Spirit will face the Chicago Red Stars for the second time in the 2020 NWSL Fall Series on Saturday, September 26 at 1 pm ET, which will be broadcast live on CBS and CBS All Access.
We broke down some of the important stats from the first two matches of the Fall Series and the Challenge Cup to keep in mind ahead of the Spirit’s rematch against the Red Stars.
Through two games in the Fall Series, the Spirit have scored a total of three goals, each coming in different areas of the offensive third. Paige Nielsen opened the scoring for the Spirit against Sky Blue with a penalty kick — the team’s lone goal of the outing. Against Chicago, the Spirit netted twice. The first, a Bayley Feist goal (her second of 2020) from inside the 18; the second, a Jessie Scarpa tap-in inside the six.
In the Fall Series, the Spirit have taken a total of 24 shots, 11 of which have been on goal. Of the 11 shots on target, eight have come inside the 18 (including Nielsen’s penalty kick), two have come inside the six and the last was an Ashley Hatch shot from just outside the 18. With all three goals — and a majority of the team’s total shots — coming inside the 18, the Spirit will look to lose their markers and test goalkeepers from close range over the final two games.
Including the Challenge Cup and the Fall Series, the Spirit have scored a total of six goals so far in the 2020 season. Of those six goals, five have come in the second half, with the lone first half goal coming against the Red Stars in the opening moments of the Challenge Cup. As the Spirit maintain possession and break down opposition defenses, it makes sense that the team is more potent in the second half, as their dominance of the ball wears teams down over the course of 90 minutes. Teams are typically resolute in the first half, but the Spirit are able to push the pace and find openings late in matches.
Over the course of two games, Head Coach Richie Burke has called on a total of 18 players. Burke has had to get creative with the way he sets his formation, with several key players missing through injury. Without the likes of Jordan DiBiasi, Ashley Hatch, Tori Huster, Tegan McGrady and Andi Sullivan, the Spirit have leaned on younger players. Despite the injury bug, Washington has remained competitive during the Fall Series, largely in part due to the versatility of the squad. Against Sky Blue, second-year player Dorian Bailey started in a midfield position, but ended the game at left back when Brooke Hendrix exited with an injury. Bailey then reprised her role as the team’s go-to left back against Chicago. Feist, meanwhile, operated as more of a ten against Sky Blue, but dropped back to the eight most recently against the Red Stars.
A key component of a Burke-coached team is the ability to make in-game adjustments. Positions are fluid in his system, as players are given license to float into open space around the pitch.
Saturday marks the Spirit’s first away match of 2020, having played the Challenge Cup in the Utah Bubble and playing their first two Fall Series matches at Segra Field in Leesburg, VA. Dating back to the 2019 season, the Spirit kept a clean sheet in each of their last three away matches, holding Houston, Orlando and Portland goalless. Before a strong end to the season, the Spirit had only kept two clean sheets in their previous 15 road matches.
In the team’s two prior trips to SeatGeek Stadium, the Spirit are 1–1, have scored three goals and given up three goals. In the two contests, Chicago has 12 shots on target compared to Washington’s 11, with the Spirit being booked more frequently, 4/1. Hatch is the only remaining player on the Spirit to have scored at SeatGeek, but look for Feist, Scarpa or rookies Averie Collins, Katie McClure and Ashley Sanchez to get on the board this weekend. Games in Chicago are always competitive, and the Red Stars will be looking to bring the Fall Series season tilt even this Saturday.