By: Shannon Duffy
Sky Blue FC defeated the Washington Spirit 2-1 on Saturday in the opening match of the NWSL Fall Series. The match broadcasted on CBS Television Network was played at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia, and was presented digitally by Hackensack Meridian Health.
Sky Blue wasted no time settling into the match, as they held the majority of the possession early on. Forwards Ifeoma Onumonu, Paige Monaghan, and Midge Purce all connected well and created several chances in the first ten minutes. Purce found herself behind the Spirit defense on the right side on the box in the 15th minute, but Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe stopped her shot.
The hard work offensively paid off for Sky Blue in the 18th minute when Onumonu picked the ball off the Spirit defender and pushed forward towards the box’s right side. The forward then ripped a shot past Bledsoe and into the upper right corner of the net to put Sky Blue up 1-0 over the Spirit.
After the goal, Washington’s offense began to work their way into the match. In the 26th minute, Spirit forward Kumi Yokoyama found space on the right side of the box, but Imani Dorsey was there to block her shot.
Just three minutes later, the Spirit had their best chance of the half when midfielder Bayley Feist sent in a shot from the center of the box that was heading towards the lower left side of the net. However, Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was quick to the ground to keep the ball out of the net.
Just before the end of the half, Purce had a series of chances in front of the Spirit goal. In the second minute of stoppage time, the Sky Blue forward played a shot from the right side of the box that went just over the bar. One minute later, Purce was back on the attack, this time on the left side of the box. She cut the ball onto her right foot, then drove a shot that bounced off the near post and out of play to end the first half.
Sky Blue continued to create scoring opportunities to start the second half. In the 47th minute, Domi Richardson sent in a dangerous free-kick from the right side of the field, forcing Bledsoe to come out and punch the ball away. Dorsey then picked up the ball at the top of the box, but her shot went over the bar.
After the early Sky Blue chances, the Spirit began to gain some momentum offensively, pushing for the equalizing goal. In the 69th minute, a cross was sent into the top of the six, but Sheridan dove off her line to intercept the pass before it could connect with one of the oncoming Spirit attackers.
In the 76th minute, Sky Blue forward Mallory Pugh, who had entered the match just fifteen minutes earlier, drove into the box with the ball after bringing it down the field’s left side. Pugh sent in a shot from the left side, but Bledsoe was there to make the diving save.
The back-and-forth action continued in the 82nd minute when Spirit forward Katie McClure ripped a shot towards the near post from the left-center of the box. Sheridan made a quick reaction save with her foot to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
Spirit found the equalizer in the 89th minute when Jessie Scarpa earned a penalty kick off a foul from defender Erika Skroski. Spirit defender Paige Neilson stepped up to the penalty spot and drove the ball into the lower-left corner of the goal to tie the match.
With six minutes of stoppage time left in the match, both teams began to push for the winning goal. In the first minute of added time, Pugh was played in behind the Spirit backline. She took a touch past Bledsoe, but her shot from a tight angle bounced off the right post, and Spirit defenders cleared the ball.
Just one minute later, Pugh played the ball behind the Spirit defense to Purce as she made a run towards goal. The Sky Blue forward, who was now in one-on-one with Bledsoe, slotted the ball past the Spirit goalkeeper and into the back of the net to put Sky Blue ahead with three minutes left to play.
After both sides pushed for one final chance on goal, the whistle blew, giving Sky Blue the 2-1 victory over the Spirit.
Saturday’s match served as Pugh’s first appearance in a Sky Blue jersey. The forward wasted no time making a name for herself on her new team, as she created multiple chances and eventually provided the assist for Purce’s match-winning goal. The 92nd-minute goal was Purce’s first for Sky Blue.
Onumonu was another bright spot in the attack for Sky Blue. Her performance on Saturday, which included her first Sky Blue goal and multiple chances created, earned her the Saker Shop Rite Woman of the Match award.
Sky Blue defender Mandy Freeman made her first appearance for the club in over two years after being sidelined last season with a torn achilles. Playing at center back, Freeman helped keep the Spirit attack off the score sheet before subbing out at halftime.
Saturday’s victory earned Sky Blue its first three points in the 2020 Fall Series, with three of the four matches left to play. The team will be back in action on Sunday, September 20, against the Chicago Red Stars. Kick-off is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET and will air on CBS All Access.
Match: Washington Spirit vs. Sky Blue FC
Date: September 5, 2020
Venue: Segra Field
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
Weather: 76 degrees and sunny
1-Kailen Sheridan; 12-Gina Lewandowski, 22-Mandi Freeman (45’ 8-Erika Skroski), 28-Imani Dorsey, 15-Sabrina Flores; 16-Sarah Woldmoe (c), 6-Jennifer Cudjoe (70’ 5-Nicole Baxter), 17-Domi Richardson (61’ 11-Mallory Pugh); 4-Paige Monaghan, 25-Ifeoma Onumonu, 23-Midge Purce
Unused Substitutes: 13-Didi Haracic, 21-Amanda McGlynn, 35-Megan Hinz, 24-Estelle Johnson
1-Aubrey Bledsoe; 14-Paige Nielson, 3-Sam Staab, 4-Natalie Jacobs, 5-Brooke Hendrix (59’ 7-Jaye Boissiere); 8-Meggie Dougherty Howard (84’ 18-Jessie Scarpa), 19-Dorian Bailey, 13-Bayley Feist; 17-Kumi Yokoyama (80’ 6-Katie McClure), 2-Ashley Sanchez (45’ 26-Meghan McCool), 33-Ashley Hatch (80’ 16-Averie Collins)
Unused Substitutes: 25-Devon Kerr, 31-Crystal Thomas
STATS SUMMARY (Sky Blue/Washington Spirit)
Shots on target:
Blocked shots: 3/3
MISCONDUCT SUMMARY Washington Spirit: Brooke Hendrix 41’: Yellow Card