If you’re looking for narratives to support a belief that the Washington Spirit will celebrate ultimate victory this year, that search should end easily and quickly. There are plenty of such storylines as you’ll see in this 2021 NWSL Championship preview.
Those same narratives are why legal sportsbooks in Virginia and Washington, DC, have cast Washington as the favorite on Saturday when they seek a win for all the league’s marbles.
At the same time, that’s exactly the storyline that the Spirit’s opponent wants to see.
2021 NWSL Championship preview: Catch the Spirit
There are many reasons to support slotting Washington as the favorite in this weekend’s NWSL Championship. The match kicks off Saturday at noon on CBS, by the way. The clubs are meeting in Louisville for the final. Supporters headed to the match looking for ways to bet check out this NWSL betting guide.
The Spirit come in as the higher seed. They are the healthier side. Additionally, Washington is on an eight-match winning streak. And if you don’t count two COVID-related forfeits, the Spirit are 8-0-3 in their past 11 games.
The absences that the Chicago Red Stars, Saturday’s opponent, are facing are significant. Chicago is presumably taking the pitch without the teams’:
- Top keeper
- Top two attackers
- An anchor on the backline
- Depth player on the backline
Washington undeniably enters the match with more accolades from the season, as well. On Thursday, the NWSL announced Trinity Rodman as the 2021 Rookie of the Year. Shortly thereafter, Aubrey Bledsoe became the Keeper of the Year.
Ashley Hatch already claimed the Golden Boot on the season. Comparatively, the Red Stars’ most notable league distinction was Sarah Gorden‘s spot on the NWSL Best XI. With all this in mind, a Spirit win could be a larger favorite on the 3-way moneyline, right?
|Sportsbook||Washington Spirit to win||Draw||Chicago Red Stars to win|
It’s fine to hold that position, but DC and VA sportsbooks seem done underestimating Chicago. The Red Stars have already burned them for doing so.
Chicago comes in with equal momentum
The narrative of the entire 2021 season for Chicago reads like a stereotypical inspirational sports movie script. The Red Stars have played all but one match of the season without midfielder Julie Ertz, who left the regular-season opener with an injury.
Top keeper Alyssa Naeher hasn’t been in goal for Chicago since before the Olympic break. The Red Stars won a crucial match to end the regular season plus the playoff quarterfinal and semifinal matches without defender Casey Krueger.
Before the semifinal match against top-seeded Portland Thorns FC, Chicago discovered it would be without its top attacker, Mal Pugh, due to COVID-19 protocols. For the same reason, it would also face Portland without defender Kayla Sharples.
Twenty-nine minutes into that match, the Red Stars lost their other top attacker, Kealia Watt, to injury.
How did they respond? By finding the back of the net twice on the road against the club that set a regular-season record for fewest goals allowed.
Chicago’s most recent loss came more than a month and five matches ago. Over their past 11, the Stars are 7-1-3. This is the club that is in its third consecutive title match and holds the league record for the longest active playoff streak at six consecutive seasons.
The narratives clash in this match as much as the clubs. Storylines are hard to quantify for betting purposes, too. Thus, when looking at betting on Saturday’s NWSL match, it’s important to take into account what can be quantified.
Chicago’s staunch midfield, backline vs. Washington’s dynamic attack
This match is a classic clash of strengths. Even without Krueger, the Red Stars’ greatest assets are in controlling the flow outside the offensive zone. Arin Wright often drops back to add even more oomph to Chicago’s backline even though the formation is technically a 3-4-2-1.
On the flip side, Hatch and Rodman make as dynamic of an attack as exists in the league. Thus, the winning side of this match will be the club able to capitalize on the few opportunities it gets in the opposite zones.
For Chicago, opportunism has been the name of the game as far as scoring goals goes for most of the season. That will be even more the case without Watt. It appears Pugh will play, though.
Washington has the advantage in terms of most offensive stats. They recorded 22 more shots and 14 more shots on goal to this point, for example. However, Chicago has a larger edge in terms of corner kicks, attempting 61 more than the Spirit.
If Washington can avoid giving the Red Stars such chances at volume, Bledsoe has the experience and talent to keep Chicago off the board. All the Spirit would need then is to find one crease through the Red Stars’ defense to get the winner.
That’s exactly what DC and VA sportsbooks are counting on. For many reasons, it’s hard to fault that finding, as we’ve detailed in the 2021 NWSL Championship preview above.