Sky Blue go for third straight win over Washington Spirit

Grubka-Skroski-72316

By TOM SLATER

Beating the same team three times in one year is always considered quite the feat. The odds, they say, are usually against something like that happening.

The odds decrease when the opponent is the league leaders. And you’re playing them back-to-back. And the final game is at their home field.

That’s what Sky Blue FC faces Saturday night in Maryland when it faces the Washington Spirit in a 7 p.m. National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) match.

But the odds don’t seem to faze the girls from New Jersey. They’ve been facing them all year and have done reasonably well — good enough, in fact, to be the fourth-place team as the NWSL gets ready for the Olympic break.

The two teams met last week in New Jersey with Sky Blue taking a 1-0 victory. The win was the third in a row for Sky Blue FC and marked their fifth straight game unbeaten at home – a new club record. The team has already equaled its point total from last year.

“We are very excited to get down to DC and build upon the momentum we have established in recent weeks,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “We are focused on putting forth a better performance than we did last weekend, and we are confident that we will come away with the three points if we are able to do that.”

Sky Blue FC have the best record in the league over the last seven matches with 14 out of a possible 21 points during that stretch. The run has propelled Holly’s team into the playoff picture as they have come from seven points out of a postseason place to currently occupying the fourth and final semifinal spot by virtue of having scored more goals than the Chicago Red Stars (the third tiebreaker after head-to-head record and goal difference).

Neither team will have its Olympic performers but that favors Sky Blue. The New Jersey side has been led by an interesting mix of youth and veterans leadership that has meshed well. Christie Rampone, who will miss her first Olympic Games since the 2000 games, has been the rock in the back. Tasha Kai, out of retirement after a five-year hiatus, has energized the club off the field and has contributed on the field as well.

A solid rookie class has brought Sky Blue contributions all over the field. Leah Galton, has three goals and three assists, including the game-winner last week. She has owned the flanks since graduating from Hofstra in May and becoming a fixture in the lineup.

Sky Blue FC hopes to have its midfield engine back this weekend. Raquel Rodriguez will definitely be in the lineup. She sat out against the Spirit last week after playing for Costa Rica against the United States in the American’s sendoff match. Sky Blue has also activated amateur players Domi Richardson and Theresa Diedrich for the match.

Hopefully Sarah Killion will be back in the lineup after missing last week with a leg injury. Nikki Stanton and Shawna Gordon filled in admirably and Stanton was named Player of the Match.

Despite losing most of their back line and a few dynamic strikers to both the Canadian and American Olympic teams, the Spirit has other weapons. . With Estefania Banini up top along with Francisca Ordega and Cheyna Williams, the forwards are dangerous. Joanna Lohman and Katie Stengel have also proven to be threats to score.

After this weekend’s match, NWSL will go dark until the last week of August with the exception of an Aug. 18 makeup match between the Spirit and the Houston Dash. That game was cancelled because of thunderstorms last month.