Opportunity Lost: Sky Blue’s run ends with Spirit

spirt v sky blue

by TOM SLATER

With the Olympic break in sight, Sky Blue FC had a chance to go out with a bang  Sunday morning. A win against the Washington Spirit would send them into the month-long league-wide recess still in fourth place and with a series win against the Spirit.

That didn’t go as expected.

The Spirit came out strong and fast and left with a 3-1 victory over Sky Blue at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The match was moved to Sunday after thunderstorms rained out the original Saturday fixture.

Washington took a 2-1 lead right before halftime, held off a Sky Blue rally in the second half and finished with a goal on the last touch of the day. The wins put Washington (9-3-2, 29 points) back into a tie with the Portland Thorns FC atop of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) standings.  The loss put Sky Blue (6-5-4, 22 points) out of the playoffs at this point, sliding back into fifth and three points behind Chicago.

The two teams split the season series with two wins each.

“We are obviously disappointed with the result and our overall performance,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC coach. “Both individually and collectively, we know that we can play much better.  However, one setback is not going to make us lose sight of what we have achieved so far this season, nor will we lose sight of what we want to achieve throughout the remainder of the year.”

Here’s what we saw Sunday morning:

  • The Spirit defense stifled Leah Galton: The British international didn’t have much room to work and couldn’t get behind the Spirit defense, where she likes to cause problems. The Spirit made a tactical change on defense, moving Caprice Dydasco from the left side to the right side to keep an eye on Galton. A week ago, Galton had her way with Whitney Church. Without Galton to chase around, Church was able to get more into the offense.
  • Kai had some chances: The Hawaiian striker looked very comfortable on the field and was creating a lot of havoc. She scored her third goal of the season right after the first half water break by pressuring center back Megan Oyster and forcing an errant clearing head ball. Kai swooped in and had goalkeeper Kelsey Wys in no-woman’s land before slotting home the equalizer.

Kai had two golden opportunities set up by Maya Hayes in the second half but Wys came up big twice. Just past an hour, Hayes sprung Kai past Oyster with a timely through ball into the box where Kai shot to Wys’s right. Wys had already dove to her left, but was able to get a foot on the ball and kick it clear.

A minute later, Hayes and Kai forced a turnover on Oyster just outside the penalty area. Kai was able to blast a point-blank shot but Wys again deflected it away.

  • The Sky Blue defense bent a little more than they would have liked: That probably had more to do with the Spirit’s very fast strikers Estefania Banini and Cheyna Williams. The two Spirit players attacked the flanks hard and made for a very long morning and early afternoon for rookies Erin Simon and Erica Skroski. Banini and Williams both scored goals but their technical play led to more than goals. They opened up the field and stretched the Sky Blue defense. That led to more 1 on 1 opportunities and kept Sky Blue FC chasing the ball.

After the break, Sky Blue FC has five matches left starting with an August 27 match at home versus Chicago. It doesn’t get better than that for Sky Blue, who can vault back into that fourth playoff spot with a victory. The remaining four games after that include three with teams who do not have winning records.