Sky Blue drops 3-1 decision to Washington Spirit

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by TOM SLATER

This wasn’t the way Sky Blue wanted to go into the Olympic break.

After being the best team in the league over the last seven weeks, Sky Blue’s three-game winning streak was ended by the Washington Spirit, falling 3-1 in a rare Sunday morning match. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday night but thunderstorms rolled through the Eastern Seaboard, leaving the Maryland SoccerPlex unplayable.

The wins puts 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 puts 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.

Washington scored twice in the first half and once very late in stoppage time. Estefania Banini and Cheyna Williams were two players who tortured the Sky Blue backline and they both got the goals for the Spirit in the opening half.

Banini’s goal was the result of a great buildup that caught the Sky Blue defense slow to react in the 27th minute. Whitney Chruch cleared a long ball out of the back to the left corner. Katie Stengel hustled to get there as Sky Blue seemed lulled to sleep for a minute. Stengel played a ball back to Joanna Lohman who squared to Banini. The Spirit striker made no mistake on beating Caroline Casey for the opening goal.

Sky Blue came level six minutes later on a miscue by the Spirit backline. Casey played long out of the back and Nikki Stanton got her head on the ball. Megan Oyster tried to clear for Washington but it went straight up and slightly back. Tasha Kai swooped in and beat goalkeeper Kesley Wys for the equalizer.

But another buildup right before the half put the Spirit back in the lead. Christine Nairn got the ball about 25 yards out and hit Caprice Dydasco overlapping on the right side. The outside defender served the ball inside to Williams who slotted it far post. It was the first professional goal for Williams and the first assist for Dydasco.

Despite the domination of the Spirit — 10 corner kicks to 3 for instance — Sky Blue had a few opportunities to draw even. In the space of two minutes midway through the second half, Kai had a pair of  1 on 1 opportunities with Wys but came up empty both times. On the first attempt, Wys held her line and kicked away the shot from the Hawaiian. A minute later, Kai forced Oyster on a turnover and swept in on the goalkeeper again. She hesitated twice and finally shot but the ball was deflected off Wys for a corner kick.

Raquel Rodriguez also had two free kicks from about 20 yards each — one in each half. Wys handled the first shot that dipped slightly at the end. The second went well over the bar.

Sky Blue did apply pressure over the final 10 minutes but couldn’t come up with the equalizer.

Alyssa Kleiner added the final goal with a blazing shot from 20 yards out in the sixth minute of stoppage time.