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By Owen Krucoff
Boyds, Md., (7/25/19) – Forward Ashley Hatch’s breakaway goal in the 54th minute led the Spirit to a 1-0 road victory over Sky Blue FC on Wednesday night. The result was Washington’s third win in as many meetings this year with Sky Blue, clinching a season series sweep over the New Jersey side.
After a 2-0 victory at the Maryland SoccerPlex to open the season on April 13, the Spirit notched a 3-2 win in Piscataway, New Jersey, on May 11. This week’s match was another close encounter, with Sky Blue buoyed by a record home crowd, but Washington proved to be just too much to handle as it secured the series sweep.
Here are some of the top stats to know from the Spirit’s three memorable games against Sky Blue FC in 2019.
It isn’t just this season in which the Spirit have been in good form against their closest geographic rivals. Washington is a dominant 8-0-2 against Sky Blue since suffering a 1-0 defeat on July 23, 2016. That stretch includes three wins in 2017, marking the last time the Spirit swept a season series with any opponent.
Defender Sam Staab and midfielder Jordan DiBiasi have been among the top rookies in the NWSL this season, and they both got off the mark offensively in games against New Jersey. Staab scored in her professional debut in April’s season opener with a well-directed shot through a crowded box.
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) April 14, 2019
DiBiasi hit a stunning volley into the top corner in May’s road victory.
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) May 11, 2019
The Spirit-controlled the run of play in all three contests this season against Sky Blue FC. Washington possessed the ball for no less than 60% of any of the games, allowing New Jersey few opportunities to build any attacking momentum.
This trend could be seen in front of goal, where the Spirit outshot Sky Blue 44-28 over the course of the three matchups.
Washington kept a clean sheet in two of the three Sky Blue games this year, and a bountiful supply of defensive stops was part of the reason why. Spirit players combined for 40 tackles across the three matches, led by Paige Nielsen with nine.
Nielsen was crucial for the Spirit in possession as well as on defense. The 25-year-old led Washington in passes in two of the three Sky Blue games, including a high mark of 115 in Wednesday’s match. By comparison, New Jersey midfielder Sarah Killion led her team with just 134 across the three matches combined.
After a busy stretch of two games in five days, the Spirit are off this weekend. They will be back in action at the North Carolina Courage on Friday, August 2, at 7 p.m. ET.