Well. Who saw this coming? The Washington Spirit are currently tied in points with Utah Royals FC. Anyone? Yea, me either. But that is how the cookie has crumbled so far. Both Utah and Washington have 13 points with a 4-1-1 record, but Utah edges Washington on goal differential and can sit at the top for now. We hoped that Utah would be good enough to stay in contention this season, but I don’t think anyone expected Washington to be up there, too. That’s good news for the NWSL, though. For the past two seasons, it’s been a back and forth between Portland Thorns FC, North Carolina Courage, and Chicago Red Stars, so it’s nice to see a couple of new teams challenging those three.
And now, Utah Royals FC can continue to extend their lead in the standings if they get three points against Washington this Saturday, and the Spirit are hoping to do the same.
So, Washington Spirit actually is that good, huh?
Yea...I think so, and like I said, no one expected them to be this competitive, especially after an abysmal 2018, finishing near the bottom of the table. So far, their only loss has been against Utah Royals FC back in April, and that was only by a 1-0 final score. But ever since then, Washington has gone on a four-game unbeaten streak. We’re talking about wins against Portland Thorns FC (3-1) and Chicago Red Stars (2-0). So yes, Washington Spirit, so far, are one of the best teams in the NWSL.
Much of that has to do with the outstanding goalkeeping efforts of Audrey Bledsoe, who leads the league with 26 saves, recording three clean sheets. More so, the Spirit are playing that possession-based style with a 78.6 success rate in passes. Ashley Hatch is also thriving in Washington with two goals this season, and she will probably keep Utah defenders busy.
Washington Spirit Stats
Record: 4-1-1 (2nd place)
Head Coach: Richie Burke
Clean Sheets: 3
Goals Allowed Per Game: 0.7
Total Shots: 52
Shots on Target: 29
Players to Watch: Audrey Bledsoe, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Hatch
Washington Injury Report
OUT: Mallory Eubanks (MAT), Tiffany McCarty (Right Calf), Sammy Jo Prudhomme (Right ankle)
“We’re number one, hey, hey, hey!” Utah must keep momentum
For Utah Royals FC, sitting at the top of the standings is pretty neat, but there is so much of the season left. But a win against Washington would set them on track that can solidify their season, especially going into the two-week World Cup break.
Speaking of the World Cup, this is the first time all season that Royals FC will be without all their international World Cup-bound players. Last week, Royals FC survived without Rachel Corsie, but this week, it will be without Katie Bowen, who had been an important support in the backline. Now it’s up to veterans Becca Moros and Nicole Barnhart to lead URFC’s defense.
Keys for winning:
- Amy Rodriguez. She’s been Utah’s most consistent player on the attack since Christen Press left for international duty. With four goals in four games, she’s Utah’s leading scorer and third in the league.
- Vero Boquete staying healthy. Last week, Vero left in the second half with an apparent injury. She’s not on the injury report this week, thankfully.
- Watch out for Ashley Hatch. Moros & company will need to make sure Hatch is not given too much space to get a chance at goal.
Prediction: Utah Royals FC win, 1-0
Utah Injury Report
OUT: Brittany Ratcliffe (SEI-Left knee), Maddie Nolf (Left hip), Taylor Lytle (SEI-Left foot)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Becky Sauerbrunn (USA), Kelley O’Hara (USA), Christen Press (USA), Desiree Scott (CAN), Diana Matheson (CAN), Rachel Corsie (SCO), Katie Bowen (NZL)
Utah midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta has been suspended for two games by the NWSL Disciplinary Committee. LaBonta was suspended for “conduct that was determined to be a major game misconduct during the 53rd minute of Utah’s match against the Orlando Pride on May 25, 2019,” the league said in a news release issued on May 30. LaBonta will serve the suspension in Utah’s matches on June 1 and June 15.
When: Saturday, June 1, 2019 | 5 PM MT
Where: Maureen Hendricks Field Maryland SoccerPlex | Boyds, Maryland
Weather: 82 degrees, sunny
Live Stream: KSL TV app, Yahoo Sports app
Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr