Sky Blue Faces Last-Place Washington

sarah killion had two goals against Washington last time the teams played

By TOM SLATER

sky blue logoSky Blue hopes to overturn old habits when they meet the Washington Spirit as the National Women’s Soccer League returns to the field after the international break with a game Friday night at Yurcak Field at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J..

The bad habit Sky Blue hopes to kick is falling behind early. In the last three games before the break, Sky Blue feel behind by two goals against FC Kansas City and Chicago, and then by four goals against Seattle.

Amazingly, Sky Blue (7-7-2, 23 points) managed to pick up four points in those games, beating the Blues, drawing with the Red Stars and then falling to the Reign, 5-4, after tying the game in the 76th minute. Sky Blue is one point out of a playoff spot and two points behind third place Portland.

The break helped Sky Blue rest its injured defenders and reorganize its back line. While it is second in goals scored (28), they have given up the same number over 16 games — the worst in the NWSL. They have allowed nine goals in the past three games — tying a club-record for the most goals conceded during a three-match stretch.

The veteran defender Christie Pearce has done her best to keep a young backline organized, but a mix of injuries and inexperience have made it difficult.

Defender Mandy Freeman, who was injured against Chicago, is listed as questionable against Washington (3-8-3, 12). Erin Simon, a second-year back is probably out for the season with a leg fracture. Sky Blue lined up in a 3-5-2 last game with Sarah Killion listed as a defender, but midfielder Nikki Stanton dropped back for most of the game.

Domi Richardson is expected to get her first start on defense, joining Pearce, the rookie Kayla Mills and the second-year defender Erica Skroski.

Sky Blue will be without Sam Kerr, who continued her fantastic summer with a four goals and two assists for Australia, which won the four-team Tournament of Nations. Kelley O’Hara, who played Thursday night with the United States, will also miss the match. That means that Mackenzie Meehan, another rookie, will probably start up top with Maya Hayes.

Washington may be the best medicine for Sky Blue. Since appearing in the NWSL championship game last fall, the Spirit have struggled They are in last place, winless in their last four games. The Spirit have not won on the road in their last nine games and will be without the rookie Mallory Pugh, who was also with the national team.