Spirit Crushes Sky Blue Hopes With Late Goal

Sky Blue's Kim Decesare battles Washington's Joanna Lohman, courtesy Sky Blue

by Chris Henderson

NWSL Beatwriter

A more direct approach saw Sky Blue FC generate their strongest performance of the season, but a late defensive lapse doomed them to defeat.

In her last play before departing for World Cup training, Nigerian striker Francisca Ordega chipped Sky Blue keeper Brittany Cameron on a breakaway and slotted into an empty net.

The loss leaves Sky Blue without a win since the first game of the season. Once again, the New Jersey team failed to score, despite generating more chances and shots than in any of their previous matches.

Knocks to midfielder Sarah Killion and defender Meg Morris, along with a decision by coach Jim Gabarra to sacrifice a midfielder for a striker, led to significant changes in the starting lineup. Forward Maya Hayes started at right back, despite having never played the position as a pro. Towering striker Kim DeCesare replaced Killion, playing alongside Nadia Nadim in a 4-4-2. Gabarra said after the game that Killion was a late scratch due to a knee injury.

From the start, Sky Blue’s attacking strategy centered around long balls for DeCesare to knock down for Nadim to freelance her way forward. The approach left the Washington defense under pressure with Nadim forcing several point blank saves from fill-in goalkeeper Kelsey Wys.

At the other end of the field Hayes engaged in a battle with United States international Crystal Dunn, who scored a brace on Sky Blue last month at Yurcak Field. At points, Dunn would switch sides and Hayes would follow her. On the other flank Ordega pushed forward against Cami Levin, eventually forcing the defender into a sliding challenge in the 15th minute that left the striker hobbled. Despite several dangerous opportunities neither team could find the net.

At the start of the second half, Sky Blue grew increasingly dominant with four early corners and a couple of set pieces deep into Washington territory. Although they maintained the pressure, they could not break through. In the 75th minute Gabarra, with his bench shortened by injuries and World Cup departures, brought reserve player Theresa Diederich into the midfield to replace DeCesare for her NWSL debut.

Dunn increasingly caused problems down the right side with a couple of dangerous crosses parried wide by the Sky Blue defense. Two minutes into stoppage time, the Spirit took a quick throw and two passes later Dunn found Ordega streaking down the middle of the defense. Cameron decided to challenge the ball, but the striker found her way past to finish the goal and the game.

The loss leaves Sky Blue just a point off the foot of the table as they head to Boston next week to face the Breakers.

Scoring Summary:

92′- Francisca Ordega WAS

Misconduct Summary:
None

Lineups:
SBFC – B.Cameron, K.Grubka, H.Haagsma, L.Cutshall, C.Levin, K.Freels, K.DeCesare (L.LaBonta-75), T.Lytle (M.Waldus-82), S.Gordon (L.LaBonta-71), M.Hayes, N.Nadim
Substitutes Not Used: A.Bledsoe, N.Stanton, S.Killion, G.Wagner

WAS: K.Wys, E.Johnson, M.Oyster, K.Reynolds, T.Huster, W.Church, J.Lohman (L.del Rio-46), A.Salem (A.Da Costa-82), C.Dunn, C.Nairn, F.Ordega
Substitutes: C.Miller, Lillard, A.Singer, T.Weimer, C.Dydasco