Photo: Robyn McNeil/ISI Photos
BOYDS, Md (June 24, 2016) – The Washington Spirit (5-1-2, 17 points) will take on regional rival Sky Blue FC (2-3-4, 10 points) on Saturday, June 25th at 7 p.m. at Maureen Hendricks Field in the last match where the Spirit will have its U.S. and Canada National Team members prior to Olympic call-ups. This is the second of four matches between the two teams this season and the first at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Last weekend the Spirit defeated the Orlando Pride 2-0. The first goal of the match came early in the ninth minute when forward Estefania Banini took a controlled first touch in the box and slipped a shot into the bottom right corner past Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris for her first goal in the NWSL. Francisca Ordega also earned her first goal of the season, and the team’s second goal of the game, when she stripped the ball off Pride center back Laura Alleway and dribbled into the Pride 18-yard box colliding with Harris and multiple Pride defenders. Ordega deftly lofted a shot before any of them reached her and her effort sailed into the back of the net, lifting the Spirit to a 2-0 win.
“We regained our momentum against Orlando,” said general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “Getting excellent performances by the entire team and having different players in the starting lineup is a positive. Sky Blue will be a difficult opponent as they have been in a lot of tight, competitive matches so far.”
In its first match against Sky Blue in April, the Spirit came out on top in a 2-1 win on the road at Yurcak Field. Defender Ali Krieger lofted a shot toward the top of the goal to give the Spirit its first goal of the match. Later, forward Diana Matheson slipped a shot through the legs of the Sky Blue keeper to increase the team’s lead. The goal for Sky Blue came when forward Maya Hayes pushed a shot past Spirit keeper Stephanie Labbé when she was off her line.
With the diversity of attacking talent available for the Spirit, it’s a tough battle to make the starting lineup. Seven different players have gotten the nod to start on the Spirit’s front line this season. Ordega made the most of her first start by scoring a goal last weekend. Banini, too, made the case for more playing time with her first NWSL goal. 2015 Golden Boot winner Crystal Dunn has assisted in over a third of the Spirit’s goals so far this season, making her a pivotal part of the offense. Other players fighting for spots include 2016 NWSL Draft picks Cali Farquharson and Cheyna Williams, as well as Katie Stengel who has two goals to her name.
After three consecutive draws in which Sky Blue scored no more than one goal per game, the team will be looking to push through for a win. Sky Blue has struggled to find offensive power, partially due to an off season injury to Australian forward Sam Kerr, who scored six goals in just nine games last season but has only seen the pitch for 15 minutes so far in 2016. Defensively, Sky Blue is anchored by longtime USWNT captain Christie Rampone and 2016 NWSL Draft pick Erica Skroski, both of whom have started every match this season.
A win would vault the Spirit into a tie for first place on 20 points with the Portland Thorns, while having played one fewer games than their western rivals. The game will be streamed live on YouTube beginning at 7 p.m. ET: https://youtu.be/y3gA65jP1xs
Next weekend, the Spirit will play FC Kansas City at home at 7 p.m. at Maureen Hendricks Field in the third game of a four game home stretch. Fans can be part of the NWSL soccer experience at perfectly manicured natural grass Maureen Hendricks Field by calling 301-337-8579 or visiting our website.