Washington Spirit hosts Sky Blue FC on Saturday
The Washington Spirit will head into the third week of the NWSL with their second home match of the season against Sky Blue FC this Saturday (April 27) at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Kick-off will take place at 7 pm (EST).
The Spirit enter this Saturday’s game coming off of their second tie of the season after last week’s 1-1 draw against the Western New York Flash. Sky Blue had last weekend off and haven’t played a game since opening weekend, when they were the only team to walk away with three points after a 1-0 win against the Flash.
The Spirit faced a difficult battle last week against the Flash, whose relentless attack at the start of the game caused issues for the Spirit,s back line. The Flash’s U.S Women’s National Team star striker Abby Wambach generated some good chances in the first few minutes, with a volley from 6 yards out that smashed into the crossbar and an 18-yard shot just minutes later that caused Spirit keeper Ashlyn Harris to make a diving fingertip save.
After the rocky start, the Spirit started to get into the game and generated a few good chances. Midfielder Diana Matheson worked hard to get forward, making crosses and helping win multiple corner kicks, although they never amounted to much. Tori Huster, a midfielder turned fullback, seemed to steal the show, often finding herself 1-on-1 with Wambach, consistently denying her time on the ball and helping to thwart several potentially dangerous opportunities. Most of the Spirit attacks came from the right side, where Ali Krieger was left unmarked, allowing her to push up the field and create chances alongside Matheson.
The match remained scoreless until the 85th minute, when Western New York’s Kerr crashed a close-range header past Harris to put the Flash on the scoreboard. Just a minute later, halftime sub Jasmyne Spencer of the Spirit was fouled in the box. Matheson stepped up to take the equalizing penalty shot and put it into the back of the net with ease. Both teams fought hard to gain the winning point in the last few minutes but neither team could produce any goals. Washington keeper Ashlyn Harris was voted NWSLNews.com Week 2 MVP by fans after her many heroic saves against the Flash’s forwards. The Spirit defense once again held strong, shutting down many of the Flash’s offensive opportunities.
Washington will again have their work cut out for them facing Sky Blue FC this Saturday. They will need to maintain a strong midfield and defensive line. Sky Blue Coach Jim Gabarra may place converted defender Kelley O’Hara up top to create more attacking opportunities for his team. If this is the case, the Spirit will have to work hard to keep her from getting behind the backline and getting shots on goal. In Sky Blue’s pre-season match against the Boston Breakers, O’Hara netted two goals to go along with Sophie Schmidt’s single tally for a 3-2 win. Sky Blue beat the Flash in Week 1 after an own goal from McCall Zebroni put them ahead. Playing O’Hara as a forward will cement Sky Blue’s strong offense, creating an attacking force that would test even the most experienced backlines.
The Spirit will need to spread the play from their right side and work on getting behind Sky Blue’s backline while containing Kelley O’Hara. Sky Blue will need to work hard to keep the Spirit midfield from getting balls to their forwards to create chances. The goalkeepers on both sides will also have to be on point and ready to fight for the win, with hard attacking players coming at them all day. Both teams have strong players in all of their lines, which will provide a hard-fought, high-energy game that will be very entertaining to watch.
Last Saturday, Spirit fans filled every seat for their home opener with a sellout crowd of 4,569. Washington is hoping for another sellout match this weekend. The livestream of last Saturday’s game drew 2,700 viewers. All Spirit games are streamed via YouTube and will be archived to watch a few days later on NWSL’s YouTube page.
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