Sky Blue holds on for big 2-1 road win over Washington Spirit

rocky

By TOM SLATER

It took nearly half the season for Raquel Rodriguez to get her first goal of her professional career. It took Sam Kerr about 16 minutes to get her first of the year.

Both players found the net Saturday and the Sky Blue FC held on for dear life in the final 20 minutes in a 2-1 victory over the Washington Spirit in the 10th week of the National  Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

The three points were crucial for the visiting team, evening their record at 3-3-4 for 13 points, vaulting them over Seattle for sixth place.  Sky Blue are now unbeaten in their last four matches (1-0-3) while the Spirit dropped its first home match of the year and are 5-2-2 for 17 points.

Rodriquez’s scored her goal in the 8th minute after Sky Blue FC had been pressing early. After keeping possession in their own end, Sarah Killion launched a perfect ball about 60 yards to a streaking Leah Galton who tracked it down in the left corner.

The English international cut the ball back to Rodriguez, who touched it once and then launched a bullet to the upper far corner. Rodriguez, who had an assist earlier, celebrated deservedly as Sky Blue kept up the pressure for the rest of the half.

Washington came out strong in the second half and began dominating play in the 50th minute with Katie Stengel, Crystal Dunn and Diana Matheson all getting into the attack.

But in the 63rd minute, Sky Blue coach Christy Holly made perhaps the best substitution of the year, sending in Kerr to replace Tasha Kai up front. Less than a minute later, Kerr made her coach look like a genius on her first touch. Galton took the ball down the left wing and sent a perfect serve over the Washington defense to a wide-open Kerr. The Aussie international let the ball go over her right shoulder before volleying past goalkeeper Stephanie Lebbe for a 2-0 lead. For Galton, it was her second assist of the game.

The Spirit closed the gap in the 75th minute when Matheson, a Canadian international who played at Princeton University, scored on a header that goalkeeper Caroline Stanley deflected somewhat but couldn’t prevent it from going in.

Both teams made strategic substitutions. Sky Blue sent Kelley O’Hara from striker to defense while the Spirit went to three backs and sent in Cali Farquharson in for an additional attacker.

Washington dominated the rest of the game with the Sky Blue defense bending slightly but never breaking.

Sky Blue head on the road to play the Portland Thorns on July 2.


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