In their second match in four days, the Washington Spirit took on Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field in New Jersey on Sunday, July 20.
Head Coach Mark Parsons made a few lineup changes due to minor injuries for this game. Tori Huster, Robyn Gayle, and Lori Lindsey started, in place of Diana Matheson, Crystal Dunn and Niki Cross.
For the first 20 minutes, action went back and forth, with the Spirit having the better of possession, but Sky Blue broke through in the 22nd minute to take a 1-0 lead. Sky Blue forward Maya Hayes ran at the Spirit defense with Nadia Nadim running in behind them. Getting on the end of Hayes’ pass, Nadim crossed to a wide-open Kelley O’Hara for the first goal of the game and O’Hara’s fourth of the season.
In a sequence in which six passes were completed, Sky Blue struck again in the 36th minute. Beginning near their own 18-yard box, Sky Blue used a series of close passes to move the ball to Caitlin Foord on the right flank. Foord played a long cross towards the Spirit’s 18-yard box to Hayes. Hayes controlled then played it along to O’Hara, who dribbled it into box, drawing defenders to her. She found a cutting Sophie Schmidt on the right side of the box and Schmidt was able to blast a shot right over Ashlyn Harris, into the back of the net, giving Sky Blue FC a 2-0 lead.
The second half saw the Spirit play with more defensive intensity. They also showed more offensive ingenuity. Time and time again, the back line kept creeping forward to catch Nadim and the other Sky Blue forwards offside. In the 81st minute, though, that strategy backfired. A clever give and go with O’Hara got Nadim free on a run, setting up a one on one chance against Harris, and Nadim was able to finish with her right foot, scoring her first goal in the NWSL.
In the 85th minute, Sky Blue FC kept pouring it on. Nadim got another unmarked run into the box, nearly identical to the one she scored on, but Harris was able to make the save. A failed clear attempt by the Spirit was intercepted, leading to O’Hara ripping a shot from outside the box past a diving Harris to bring the score to 4-0.
The Spirit were able to get on the board in the 88th minute. A Diana Matheson corner kick was headed around in the box, until a fortunate bounce came to Jodie Taylor who put it in. Mere moments later, the Spirit were able to capitalize on another corner kick, this time with Robyn Gayle scoring to bring the Spirit within two. Alas, it was too little, too late. Sky Blue FC held on to win 4-2.
With the loss, the Washington Spirit fall to 8-8-3 and slide to fourth place, with 27 points on the season. They are back in action on Wednesday against the Portland Thorns home at the Maryland SoccerPlex.