Spirit Host Orlando on Japanese Heritage Night

Washington Spirit  |   August 21, 2021
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WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 6: WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 06: Washington Spirit defender Kelley O’Hara (5) controls the ball during a NWSL match between the Washington Spirit and the Orlando Pride on June 06, 2021, at Audi Field, in Washington DC during a game between Orlando Pride and Washington Spirit at Audi Field on June 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Ian Decker

Leesburg, VA., (08/21/2021) – The Washington Spirit face the Orlando Pride on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET at Audi Field. The match will be broadcast on Twitch for fans in the United States and international viewers. 

The match will be the third and final meeting between the two clubs this season. The previous two regular season affairs have finished as 1–1 draws.

The Opposition

Orlando arrives in the nation’s capital having won just one of its last eight competitive fixtures. Since June 26, the Pride are 1–3–4 and have a minus-four goal differential. Missing two of their top strikers — Alex Morgan (USA) and Marta (Brazil), as well as starting fullback Ali Riley and backup goalkeeper Erin McLeod — through Olympic commitments undoubtedly hurt the Florida-based outfit, but the results nevertheless have been inconsistent at best.

Despite slogging through a dismal month of July, Orlando currently sits in fourth place in the league table. The Pride are level on points (21) with both NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Chicago Red Stars but have played two more matches than Gotham and one less than Chicago. 

In two of their last three contests, the Pride have squandered second-half leads. Scoring hasn’t been an issue for the Purple and Black, Orlando is tied for second-most goals scored in the NWSL (18), rather holding a lead has proven difficult. 

With everyone back from international duty, Interim Head Coach Becky Burleigh — who replaced the recently departed Marc Skinner — will lean on the three-headed monster of Sydney Leroux (league-leading seven goals), Alex Morgan (four goals, one assist) and Marta (one goal, three assists). 

The Spirit

With one game in hand, Washington trails Orlando by just two points, so a win would instantly vault the Spirit ahead of their east-coast rivals. Washington sports a better record than the Pride in its last eight games, 3–1–4, and the two teams boast nearly identical stat lines in terms of goals scored (18 to 17) and are dead even in goals conceded (17 to 17).

Similar to Orlando, Washington had its own difficulties with players traveling to the Olympics. Friday’s match against Houston marked the ninth match without USWNT Olympic bronze medalists Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett, as well as Julia Roddar, a silver medalist with Sweden. Saori Takarada, who suited up for Japan this summer, made a seamless return to the Spirit against the Dash. 

As always, Washington is held together by Aubrey Bledsoe (34 saves) in net and captain Andi Sullivan (three assists) in midfield. Defending the league’s top offensive unit is no small feat, but thankfully for the Spirit, they have a triad of strikers to match Orlando’s unit. Ashley Hatch (six goals), Trinity Rodman (four goals, two assists) and Ashley Sanchez (three goals) should give the Pride’s defenders a headache come Sunday.

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