Spirit Face Louisville in Second Match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup

Washington Spirit  |   April 14, 2021
Spirit Face Louisville in Second Match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Featured Image

CARY, NC – APRIL 10: Trinity Rodman #2 of the Washington Spirit celebrates her first professional goal with teammates Ashley Sanchez #10, Natalie Jacobs #4, and Ashley Hatch #33 during a game between Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on April 10, 2021 in Cary, North Carolina.

Alejandra Martin

Leesburg, VA., (04/14/2021) – The Washington Spirit will face Racing Louisville in the second fixture of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Presented by Secret Deodorant on Thursday, April 15 at 7 pm ET at Audi Field in Washington, DC. The match will be broadcasted on Paramount+ in the US and on Twitch for international viewers.

This will be the first time in NWSL history that these two teams will meet, as Racing Louisville joined as an expansion side in the 2020-21 offseason. 

The Opposition

Racing Louisville made their NWSL debut on Saturday, April 10 against the Orlando Pride, a match that ended in a 2-2 draw. The match was a very intense one, as the team fought all the way to the end to get an equalizer goal during extra time, scored by former Spirit player Brooke Hendrix. 

This will be Louisville’s first away game, and it can be expected that they will bring a lot of intensity. As the new team in the league, they are coming to prove that they can be a top team and will try to keep the momentum from the last game going. To do that, they will rely on NWSL veterans Yuki Nagasato, Savannah McCaskill and team captain Michelle Betos to dictate the game’s tempo. McCaskill leads the team in total passes and successful passes, making her the main distribution channel, while Nagasato had the most shots and tackles in the match.

On the defensive side of the ball, Louisville will be looking at rookie and No. 1 overall draft pick Emily Fox and Hendrix to stop the opposition’s attack while also contributing to the team’s distribution. Fox was the player with the most possession gained last game, while Hendrix won the most ariel duels and scored the game-winning goal. Lastly, both players finished the game with over a 70 percent passing accuracy.

The Spirit

The Spirit had a strong performance in their first Challenge Cup game against the Courage, but it still wasn’t enough to give them the three points. The team fell short by one goal, ending the game in a 3-2 loss against the two-time NWSL Champions.

Despite the result, the Spirit showed that they are a team to be reckoned with after their performance while missing key players due to international duty and injuries. They will play their first home game of the season at Audi Field and will look to bring the energy and ball control they had in their previous match. For that, they will look for captain and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe to communicate from the back and control the backline with the help of centerback Paige Nielsen, who had an 89.7% passing accuracy. Nielsen is dictating the backline without her typical partner, Sam Staab who is questionable on the injury report, in a three-back formation. 

In the attack, the Spirit will be looking for second-year players Ashley Sanchez, Kumi Yokoyama and veteran Ashley Hatch to create and finish chances in front of goal. However, they are also relying on rookies Anna Heilferty and Trinity Rodman to significantly impact the game’s dynamic and team’s offensive performance, as they did in their debut. After playing all game, Heliferty managed to end with an 88.9% passing accuracy while Rodman scored her first goal, which put the team back in the game within the first five minutes of coming into the match.

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