Photo Credit: Jose Argueta/ISI Photos
BOYDS, Md (July 22, 2016) – The Washington Spirit (8-2-2, 26 points) will take on Sky Blue FC (5-4-4, 19 points) at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday, July 23rd at 7 p.m. This is the third meeting between the regional rivals, and the first of two back-to-back games as the teams meet again next Saturday in suburban Washington as well.
“We continue to make improvements as individuals and as a group, but there are a lot of areas we still need to improve upon,” said Spirit general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “Coming off a really good road result we now have to prepare for a talented and in form Sky Blue FC club in NJ. This is a big home and away for us to maintain our momentum.”
The Spirit is tied at the top of the NWSL table with the Portland Thorns at 26 points and are the hottest team in the NWSL in recent weeks boasting three straight wins. With a win Saturday the Spirit can take sole possession of first place and still have one game “in hand” over all other teams in playoff positions.
The regional rivals have split their first two meetings so far in 2016, with each winning away from home. Sky Blue’s June 25th win at the Maryland SoccerPlex the last defeat before the Spirit’s 3-game winning streak.
In the first meeting between the two teams in New Jersey, a lofted shot in the upper corner of the goal from defender Ali Krieger and a low drive by midfielder Diana Matheson through the goalkeeper’s legs lifted the Spirit to a 2-1 win. The Spirit fell in the June rematch 1-2 on powerful goals from distance by Sky Blue’s Raquel Rodriguez and Sam Kerr on either side of halftime.
With the Spirit’s U.S. and Canada National Team members out preparing for the Olympics, the attack will have a different dynamic on Saturday. Estefania Banini, fresh off her first NWSL Player of the Week and Goal of the Week wins, has scored three goals in the past two games and will look to lead the Spirit’s attack. Midfielder Joanna Lohman scored her fourth goal of the season last weekend in the team’s 3-2 win over the defending NWSL Champions, which ties her for most goals on the Spirit in 2016 with Matheson and Banini. Nigerian international Francisca Ordega has also been a major offensive threat in recent weeks with two goals and an assist.
The Spirit defense has been equally impressive and had to overcome its own Olympic call-up impacts. Goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, center back Estelle Johnson, and fullback Caprice Dydasco have pitched two shutouts in their three wins as a unit.
Fans can watch the match via the NWSL live stream on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ah65h-XeHjc
The Washington Spirit will play its next home game next Saturday, July 30th against Sky Blue in the second of back to back matches and the final of four regular season matches between the teams. For tickets, fans can go to our website.