Washington Spirit a tall order for Sky Blue FC

Kai-Wash-42916

By TOM SLATER

After this weekend’s games, one half of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season will be in the books.

And it’s time for Sky Blue FC – and other teams in the middle of the NWSL table — to make a move if they want to move up in the standings.

Currently, Sky Blue FC stands in seventh place (2-3-4, 10 points).  There’s five points separating them and three other teams ahead of them for the fourth and final playoff spot.

And it doesn’t get easier Saturday when Sky Blue FC meets the third-place Washington Spirit (5-1-2, 14 points) at the Maryland SoccerPlex. First kick is 7 p.m.

Sky Blue is in a strange situation: they haven’t won in four matches and haven’t won in their last three. In addition, the team has not fared well against the teams that are currently playoff bound. Sky Blue has a record of 0-3-1 against those teams and have a 2.50 goals-against average against those teams.

On the other hand, Washington feast on the non-playoff sides with a 4-0-1 record and outscoring them, 7-2.

Historically, Sky Blue FC is the leader in this rivalry with a record of 5-3-2, outscoring the Spirit, 15-13. The New Jersey club has also gotten the better of the two at the Maryland SoccerPlex with an overall resume of 2-1-2. However, Washington has won the last three overall meetings between these two teams.

“We are looking forward to getting down to Washington and putting in a good performance on Saturday,”   said Sky Blue FC coach Christy Holly. “This game comes to us after our strongest showing of the year against Seattle last weekend. We have seen quite a bit of Washington, and we have a good understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses are. We have formulated a game plan that we know will provide us with a positive outcome if executed properly.”

The two teams met in New Jersey in April with the Spirit scoring a 2-1 victory in former Sky Blue FC coach Jim Gabarra’s return to the Garden State. Washington had a 2-0 lead on goals from Ali Krieger and Diana Matheson. Maya Hayes scored for Sky Blue.

Some things have changed, however, since that match.

Caroline Casey was in goal that night and lost Kreiger’s long, no-angle shot in the sun for the game’s first goal. Caroline Stanley has played every match since then and has been a very strong performer in net.

Hayes, the Sky Blue goal-scorer, scored a second goal of the season but has been injured and won’t play against the Spirit.

Erin Simon, a walk-on defender, has been replaced by last year’s second-round draft pick Kristin Grubka on the backline Simon played well early but Grubka has come on to form a strong central partnership with captain Christie Rampone.

Leah Galton didn’t play last time against the Spirit. She was still taking classes at Hofstra. Her presence in the past four matches has brought energy to the attack. She should start in Maryland as she did against Seattle..

Washington comes in without no production from United States international Crystal Dunn (no goals) but has one of the top midfields in the NWSL.  Sky Blue FC has solid duo with Sarah Killion and Raquel Rodriguez. The team that wins this battle should win the game.

These weekend’s matches will also be the final opportunity for fans to see the league’s national team players with the Rio Olympics a little more than month away.


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