Photo: Robyn McNeil/ ISI Photos
Piscataway, N.J. (Apr. 24, 2016) – In its first game on the road, the Washington Spirit (2-0-0, 6 points) defeated Sky Blue FC (1-1-0, 3 points) 2-1 at Yurcak Field courtesy of goals from Ali Krieger and Diana Matheson. A lofted shot into the upper 90 from USWNT defender Krieger and a shot slipped between the legs of the Sky Blue keeper from Canadian forward Matheson proved enough to top Sky Blue at Yurcak Field. Tonight’s win lifts the Spirit into sole possession of the top spot in the NWSL table with a perfect six out of six points earned over two games.
Both sides struggled to generate dangerous chances on goal during the first half and much of the play was stuck in the center of the field. However, the Spirit broke the stalemate in the 41st minute when Spirit veteran midfielder Tori Huster sent a through ball up the right flank to Krieger. After her perfect first touch, Krieger drove a powerful shot from outside the penalty box that sailed just over goalkeeper Caroline Casey’s extended arm to give the Spirit a 1-0 lead over Sky Blue just before the first half ended.
Not long after, in the 56th minute, forward Crystal Dunn earned her second assist of the season when she played a ball directly to the feet of Matheson. Matheson dribbled the ball into the box, where she went one-on-one with Casey. Matheson nutmegged the keeper, sending the ball into the back of the net to double the Spirit’s lead bringing the score to 2-0.
Even with the 2-0 lead, the Spirit kept pressuring Sky Blue. “We wanted to keep playing the same way,” said Spirit general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “If we would have sat back and started protecting the lead, we would be giving Sky Blue the chance to put us under pressure and put us in our defensive third. They’re very dangerous and unpredictable up front with Kai and Hayes among others. It’s something we didn’t want to open ourselves up to. We’d rather push for the third goal.”
In the 66th minute, Hayes put Sky Blue on the board. Midfielder Raquel Rodriguez sent the ball in to midfielder Taylor Lytle. Lytle saw the open pass opportunity for Hayes and slipped the ball to her as she made a far post run. Washington Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé ran off her line in hopes of intercepting the shot, however Hayes was able to tuck the ball under her into the back of the net.
The match between the regional rivals proved physical, with two players earning yellow cards. In the 45th minute, Spirit center back Shelina Zadorsky earned a yellow card for a slide tackle in Sky Blue’s offensive third. Later, Sky Blue defender Kelley O’Hara received a yellow card following a slide tackle that took down Dunn in the 74th minute.
In the final minutes of the game, Sky Blue looked for one more opportunity to equalize. Labbé was forced to chase a ball out of bounds at the endline, thus earning Sky Blue a corner kick. O’Hara drove the ball into the box that was cleared, yet quickly earned back by Sky Blue. Tasha Kai headed the ball toward the net, but it ended up right in the arms of Labbé.
“It was important for our momentum to get a win on the road,” stated Gabarra. “The team did a really good job of coming out with a lot more energy and motivation the second half. It’s good for our first road game of the year, especially in a place where we have to come to twice. It’s good psychologically for us to continue the momentum that we started at the home opener.”
With tonight’s victory, the Spirit moves into first place in the NWSL standings with six points through two games (2-0-0) while Sky Blue FC drops to fifth place. The Spirit continues its travels next week as the team faces the Western New York Flash at 7 p.m. at Sahlen’s Stadium.
The Spirit returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex on May 7th to face Portland Thorns FC led by former Spirit head coach Mark Parsons. Tickets are available now by calling 301-337-8579 or visiting the Washington Spirit website.
Washington Spirit Lineup: Stephanie Labbé, Ali Krieger, Megan Oyster, Shelina Zadorsky, Alyssa Kleiner, Joanna Lohman, Tori Huster, Christine Nairn, Diana Matheson (85′ Cali Farquharson), Katie Stengel (67′ Cheyna Williams), Crystal Dunn
Subs not used: Kelsey Wys, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco, Estefania Banini
Sky Blue FC Lineup: Caroline Casey, Erin Simon, Christie Rampone, Erica Skriski (88′ Kim DeCesare), Kelley O’Hara, Taylor Lytle (77′ Danielle Schulmann), Raquel Rodriguez, Sarah Killion, Shawna Gordon (61′ Ashley Nick) , Maya Hayes, Tasha Kai
Subs not used: Caroline Stanley, Kristin Grubka, Nikki Stanton
|Sky Blue FC||0||1||1|
|1||40||Washington||Ali Krieger||Tori Huster|
|2||56||Washington||Diana Matheson||Crystal Dunn|
|3||66||Sky Blue||Maya Hayes||Taylor Lytle|
|46+||Washington||6||Shelina Zadorsky||Yellow||Reckless Foul|
|74||Sky Blue||19||Kelley O’Hara||Yellow||Reckless Foul|