Boyds, MD. (10/02/2020) – The Washington Spirit will face Sky Blue in the concluding match of the NWSL Fall Series on October 3 at 12:30 pm ET at the MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field in Montclair, NJ. The game will be streamed live on Twitch.
This is the first time the two sides have met since playing in the opening match of the Fall Series on September 5 — a 2–1, stoppage-time, Sky Blue win. It was Sky Blue’s first win against the Spirit in 11 games, a winless streak that dated back to July 2016. With three of Washington’s four goals at the Fall Series coming after the 85th minute, watch out for late-game heroics between these East Coast rivals.
After Midge Purce scored in the 92nd minute against the Spirit, Sky Blue was beaten 4–1 by the Chicago Red Stars at the expansive SeatGeek Stadium. Unlike the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, during which Sky Blue fell 3–0 but battled back to a 3-2 scoreline, there was no comeback on the cards against Chicago on September 20.
Despite a 4–1 defeat, there have been positives for Sky Blue at the Fall Series. With Ifeoma Onumonu scoring in the first two matches, should she net against the Spirit, she would become only the second Sky Blue player to score in three straight NWSL matches since 2018.
Additionally, Sky Blue fans have gotten to see Purce unleashed up top. Her speed and technical ability cause matchup nightmares when she picks up the ball and runs at the defense. With Imani Dorsey and Sabrina Flores locked-in at outside back, Coombe has been able to move Purce up the pitch into her preferred position.
Along with Sky Blue’s soaring attack, midfield is similarly an area of strength. In the first two games, Domi Richardson and Sarah Woldmoe have been a strong pairing as center defensive midfielders, while Jennifer Cudjoe and Paige Monaghan have pushed the team up the field.
With a plethora of players on loan — including Elizabeth Eddy (Vittsjö GIK), Nahomi Kawasumi (INAC Kobe), Kaleigh Riehl (Paris FC) and Evelyne Viens (Paris FC) — Coombe has relied upon defensive stalwart Gina Lewandowski in the heart of defense and has used the Fall Series to ease Estelle Johnson back from injury.
With injuries limiting over a third of Washington’s starters in Jordan DiBiasi, Tori Huster, Ashley Hatch, Tegan McGrady and Andi Sullivan, Spirit Head Coach Richie Burke has had to get creative with his lineups. Despite missing some big names, the Fall Series has given Burke and his training staff an opportunity to assess the futures of some of the team’s younger players.
“Some players are very young in their professional careers,” Burke said. “We’ve got to make a decision if we are going to invest in them, especially if we want to be a championship team and somebody who wants to be vying for championships. Are we going to keep players that are more of a developmental project or players who are closer to contributing when our mainstay players are on the field?”
For players like Dorian Bailey and Bayley Feist, the Fall Series has been a chance to continue the development and progress made at the Challenge Cup. Both versatile midfielders, Bailey can operate as a defensive midfielder or a wing-back, while Feist can play through the midfield in an attacking or defensive position. Jaye Boissiere has also logged minutes during the Fall Series in midfield, but has been limited due to injuries.
In terms of the development Burke spoke of, it is most evident in young players fighting for a spot on the team. Players like Meghan McCool and Jessie Scarpa have been given opportunities in starting roles and off the bench. The last player to benefit from the Fall Series, and some injuries to more senior players, has been full-back Natalie Jacobs, who has started each of the Spirit’s three games in the competition on either the right or left side of defense.