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The Washington Spirit suffered their first loss of the 2013 NWSL season on Saturday night, falling 2-1 to Sky Blue FC (N.J.) in front of 3,102 fans on a beautiful night at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Midfielder Diana Matheson contributed a well-taken 35th-minute goal and U.S. Women’s National Team member Ashlyn Harris turned in a top-class goalkeeping display with six saves, but it was not enough to overcome a quality road performance from Sky Blue, who were spearheaded by forward Lisa De Vanna. The Spirit are now 0-1-2 on the year and return to action on Saturday, May 4 when Alex Morgan and Portland Thorns FC visit the SoccerPlex (7 p.m. ET).
Sky Blue defender Coco Goodson opened the scoring less than two minutes into the match, stunning Washington with a header off a corner kick delivered by Danesha Adams.
The Spirit nearly drew level in the 22nd minute on a quick counterattack led by right back Ali Krieger. The USWNT star found Matheson, who passed to Tiffany McCarty, but the rookie striker was well-defended at the near post. Washington captain Lori Lindsey nearly scored four minutes later, as she fired a free kick just high of the target after Kika Toulouse was fouled at the edge of the Sky Blue penalty box.
The home side finally broke through in the 35th minute. Matheson made an excellent late run into the box, tracking down Lindsey’s cross from the left wing, then finishing past Sky Blue goalkeeper Brittany Cameron to tie the game at 1-1. Harris kept the score deadlocked with a composed save on De Vanna’s close-range shot in first-half injury time.
De Vanna set up the game-winner three minutes after the break. The speedy Australian tracked down a long ball, then found her teammate Sophie Schmidt at the top of the Spirit box, and the Canadian international steered a curling shot past Harris to secure all three points.
Second-half substitute Caroline Miller changed the game in the Spirit’s favor after she came off the bench in the 71st minute. Miller looked to have drawn the home side level in the 80th minute when she juked past her defender and curled a low drive towards the far corner of the net, but Cameron dived to her left and made a fingertips save.
The two teams continued to trade chances down the stretch as De Vanna and Lindsey went close, but there would be no repeat of last week’s late heroics for the Spirit.
Saturday’s game was the second in a four game home stand, with Portland Thorns coming to town next Saturday May 4, followed by the first trip to Maryland as an NWSL team by the Boston Breakers on May 11.
Ticket sales for next week’s Portland game have already surpassed the 3,500. With only a 4,500 capacity, the team encourages fans to order tickets online immediately at tickets.washingtonspirit.com in order to avoid missing the only trip to Washington the Thorns this regular season.