The Washington Spirit (1-13-4) will face third place Sky Blue FC (9-6-4) at Yucak Field in Piscataway Township, N.J. on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET in the team’s final road match of the season.
The match will be the third of four meetings between the sides this season, with the final one scheduled for Aug. 18 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Sky Blue is 2-0 against the Spirit so far, with a 2-1 win on April 27 and a 1-0 win on July 6.
Washington enters the match coming off a 3-0 loss in Rochester on Wednesday against the Western New York Flash, the team’s sixth straight loss since drawing FC Kansas City 1-1 on July 3. Ashlyn Harris provided a strong effort in goal for the Spirit, making seven saves, but the high-powered Flash attack reeled off 23 shots against the injury-ridden Washington defense.
With starters Robyn Gayle, Candace Chapman and Toni Pressley still recovering from injuries, and Ali Krieger only available off the bench having just returned from a concussion, head coach Mark Parsons started forward Lindsay Taylor on defense. Free agent signee Marisa Abegg also helped bolster the depleted back line, entering the game at left back in the 30th minute.
With Krieger and possibly Gayle back in the lineup, and Abegg having a game under her belt, the Spirit will look for a better defensive effort against a Sky Blue attack which has also struggled as of late.
Sky Blue has gone winless, losing three matches and drawing one since beating Washington at home on July 6. In that four-game span Sky Blue has scored just one goal, which came in a 3-1 loss to Portland on July 31. It came in the 18th minute on a free kick by Katy Freels which deflected off Nikki Washington and was recorded as an own goal.
Despite the team-wide offensive struggles for both sides, the Spirit and Sky Blue FC each possess one of the league’s top scorers. Washington’s Diana Matheson is tied with Portland’s Alex Morgan for fourth in the NWSL with seven goals, while Sky Blue’s Sophie Schmidt is tied with two other players for seventh with six.
With only three remaining regular season games, Sky Blue FC is in good position to hold onto one of the four playoff spots. With 31 points, they lead fourth place Western New York by one point, and fifth place Boston and Chicago by eight. They would clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a win over the Spirit, and if Boston and Chicago lose or draw in Saturday’s matches.
Eighth place Washington has been eliminated from postseason contention, but will play a big role in deciding the playoff picture with three of its final four matches coming against teams still vying for spots.
Saturday’s match will be shown on the NWSL Youtube Channel.