Sky Blue is set to face the Washington Spirit in the opening match of the NWSL Fall Series on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. The match will be played at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia, and will be broadcast live on CBS Television Network. Hackensack Meridian Health is presenting this match digitally for Sky Blue FC fans.
After a successful Challenge Cup campaign that included the club’s first playoff victory in NWSL history, Sky Blue will be looking to carry the momentum into the Fall Series. The match on Saturday will be a rematch of the Challenge Cup quarterfinal, where Sky Blue won in penalties after a scoreless regulation period. With head coach Freya Coombe leading the charge, fans can expect a possession-oriented style of play on the pitch. Sky Blue quickly established themselves as a team that likes to hold possession in the Challenge Cup, as they averaged 54% of possession during their six tournament games.
The Fall Series will serve as Mallory Pugh’s first match in a Sky Blue uniform. The USWNT forward was acquired in the offseason but was unable to play in the Challenge Cup due to a hip injury. After debuting for the national team at just 17 years old, Pugh has since scored 18 goals and recorded 17 assists in 63 appearances for her country. At the club level, she scored ten goals and provided four assists in her three seasons with the Washington Spirit.
Pugh will be joining the Sky Blue front line featuring Ifeoma Onumonu and Paige Monaghan, who both combined well to lead the team’s attack in the Challenge Cup. Monaghan scored the first Sky Blue goal during the Cup and will be on the hunt to open the Fall Series scoring for the squad.
In the midfield, fans can expect to see NWSL rookie Jennifer Cudjoe earn more minutes for Sky Blue. Cudjoe joined the Club this year after catching the attention of the coaching staff in open tryouts. Last week, Sky Blue signed Cudjoe to a multi-year contract, the decision being influenced largely by her standout Challenge Cup performance. Cudjoe will be playing alongside Sky Blue veteran team-captain Sarah Woldmoe, who was one of only three Sky Blue field players to play every minute of the 2020 Challenge Cup.
Sky Blue’s defense will be anchored by veteran center backs Gina Lewandowski and Estelle Johnson, who both helped shut down the opposing attacks throughout the Challenge Cup. Out wide, fans are likely to see the versatile Midge Purce darting up the side of the pitch and creating dangerous chances on goal from her right-back position. Kailen Sheridan, a familiar and trusted face, will be suiting up in goal for Sky Blue. After six stellar Challenge Cup performances, Sheridan was named the tournament’s Verizon Golden Glove recipient.
The Washington Spirit has been on the rise since head coach Ritchie Burke took over the club at the beginning of 2019. The team finished in fifth place last season, just four points shy of a playoff spot. The team carried that momentum into the 2020 Challenge Cup, where they impressed many with their energetic and creative style of play.
The Spirit will be bringing a unique combination of talent and experience to the field on Saturday. They will be led up top by forward Ashley Hatch, whose 19 career NWSL goals are the most on the team. Hatch will be joined by rookie Ashley Sanchez, who was the 4th overall pick in the 2020 NWSL draft. Just 21 years of age, Sanchez earned the Future Legend award in the Challenge Cup for her impressive play offensively.
The core of Washington’s team is made up partly of second-year players such as Jordan DiBiasi, Sam Staab, and Bayley Feist. Despite their young age, these players each made a large contribution to the Spirit’s transformative 2019 season.
Rounding out the remainder of the Spirit’s roster are veterans Tori Huster and Aubrey Bledsoe. In goal, Bledsoe’s many incredible saves throughout the 2019 season earned her the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year award. Meanwhile, Huster, who plays outside back for the club, has been with the Spirit since the league’s inception in 2013. With both players standing in the way of the goal, Sky Blue’s attack will need to be clinical on Saturday.
The weekend matchup between Sky Blue and the Spirit will serve as the first of two meetings between the clubs in the Fall Series. They will meet again on October 3 at Montclair State University at 12:30 p.m. ET. Fans in the United States can watch Saturday’s match on CBS Television Network, while international fans can stream it on Twitch.