The Orlando Pride host the Washington Spirit in their first game at Orlando City Stadium tomorrow at 4 p.m. kickoff. The Pride come home with a 0-1-0 record after last week’s 2-0 loss at Portland and will look to take advantage of a Spirit squad that lost a good chunk of quality off last year’s team that reached the NWSL final.
Washington swept the season series a year ago, winning 2-0 at home and 2-1 in Orlando.
Here to help us prepare for today’s match is Caitlin Buckley of Black and Red United, who was kind enough to answer our questions about what we can expect from the Spirit. I also answered her questions, which you can catch over at their place.
The Spirit had by far the most tumultuous off-season in the NWSL and everything we thought we knew about the team at the end of last season has changed. It’s early, but what seems to be the team’s personality in 2017?
Caitlin Buckley: Despite the team’s changes, the team is still rather close-knit and scrappy. For most of the team’s history, the Spirit haven't featured tons of high-profile national team players. Last season was a bit of an exception. This team feels like an underdog but last game’s performance didn’t correct any existing perceptions of the team’s potential this season. Losing Joanna Lohman was a big loss on the field but Lohman is still involved off the field.
With so many changes from a contending team, there is a real risk of alienating the fan base. How have the Spirit coped so far with the backlash?
CB: It’s super early to tell. So far, the remaining players have seemed positive and hopeful about the team. However the situation and perception are still bad enough that Mal Pugh has reportedly refused to play for the Spirit. However, the players recently created a team blog as an outward sign of unity.
What is the realistic floor and ceiling for the 2017 Washington Spirit?
CB: The Spirit are a bit underrated but still have plenty of legitimate problems. Realistically, I expect them to finish in the bottom third of the standings. Washington’s performances at Saturday was very poor and the season-ending injury to Lohman was a serious blow to the team’s hopes.
Any injury absences we should know about? Your projected starting XI, and a final score prediction?
CB: I wouldn’t expect Cheyna Williams to play or figure heavily. Caprice Dydasco, Cali Farquharson, Joanna Lohman, Kelsey Wys all have ACL injuries.
Starting XI: Stephanie Labbe; Cameron Castleberry, Whitney Church, Shelina Zadorsky, Kassey Kallman; Line Sigvardsen Jensen, Tori Huster, Kristie Mewis; Arielle Ship, Katie Stengel, Francisca Ordega.
Well, there you have it. Big thanks to Caitlin from Black and Red United for stopping by and giving us the scouting report on the Washington Spirit.