By Kevin O’Rourke
The stage was set for a terrific party at Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown on Saturday night. The crowd of 4,282 was ready to party with the hometown Spirit, but the visiting New Jersey Sky Blue FC had other ideas.
The Spirit’s bid to clinch a playoff spot by winning the last home game of the season fell short after a 1-0 loss to Sky Blue FC, but the Spirit got help from the Western New York Flash who eliminated the Chicago Red Stars by playing to a draw and securing the Spirit a spot in the playoffs.
With the Red Star eliminated, and the Portland Thorns jumping to the third spot with a victory over the Seattle Reign on Sunday, the Spirit will make their first post-season NWSL appearance next Sunday, Aug. 25 against Hope Solo and the Reign at 11 pm ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Spirit came out strong in their bid with clinch as both teams had several scoring chances early on in the match, but Sky Blue FC would strike first on a goal from forward Monica Ocampo in the 27th minute.
Sky Blue worked the ball into the Spirit zone and Kelley O'Hara played a ball into the box towards teammate Maya Hayes. Spirit defender Toni Pressley beat Hayes go to it first and headed it away, unfortunately the header went right to Ocampo, who chested the ball, then put a shot past Spirit goal keeper Chantel Jones and into the low left corner of the goal. Jones’ record for the season drops to 0-4-1.
The Spirit continued to build offensive pressure the entire game, but were never able to make the connection to the cutting forward or pass the ball through the Sky Blue defenders for the shot. The final four minutes of action charged the Spirit crowd with energy with multiple quality chances for the equalizer, but all fell just short. Spirit defender Ali Krieger took a one-time shot from outside the box that was deflected off a Sky Blue defender. But the goalie managed to dive to her left and push the ball away from goal to secure the shutout at the final whistle.
The game was also the last home game for Spirit veteran and former captain Lori Lindsey. Lindsey, 34, announced her retirement from professional soccer at the end of 2014. She is a veteran of the US National Women’s Team, with 31 international appearances, including as a member of the Women’s World Cup in 2011. That squad that brought the team back into national prominence, finishing as runners-up to Japan after thrilling early round and finals matches.
Lindsey’s retirement was celebrated at the end of the game with a video tribute on the scoreboard.
Top: The Spirit's Tori Huster and Toni Pressley work to disposse Sky Blue forward Monica Ocampo of the ball early in Saturday's match.
Middle: Spirit captain Ali Kreiger.
Bottom: Spirit fan favorite and women's soccer legend Lori Lindsey played her last home game on Saturday, after announcing her retirement from professional soccer last week.
Photos by Germantown Pulse