The Washington Spirit seemed unable to get into their usual attacking gear in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to regional rivals New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday night, in a game that was billed as the send-off to the international players leaving for their national team camps prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio later this summer. The loss was the Spirit first in the friendly confines of the Maryland SoccerPlex this season, and just the second home loss since 2014.
The loss brings the Spirit’s all-time record against their closest geographic rival to 4-5-2. They have split the two meetings thus far this year, and they will play again this season in back to back games on July 23 in New Jersey and July 30 in the Maryland SoccerPlex.
The Spirit found themselves down 1-0 early in the match after Sky Blue earned the first goal as Sky Blue’s Leah Galton played a ball to 2015 Mac Hermann Trophy winner Raquel Rodriguez at the top of the box. Rodriguez fired her shot into the top right corner of the net past Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé‘s extended arms.
One minute after getting subbed into the game, Australian forward Sam Kerr increased the Sky Blue’s with a second goal in the 64th minute. Galton earned her second assist of the match when she sent a long cross into the box from the left flank that found Kerr. Kerr executed a side volley that slid past a diving Labbé and into the back of the net.
In the 77th minute, the Spirit closed the gap with its first goal of the match. Argentinian forward Estefania Banini sent a ball into the box from the left flank. Diana Matheson headed the ball into the right side of the net past Sky Blue keeper Caroline Stanley, the cheers of the 3,448 in attendance at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Labbé made numerous saves in the match, showing the extent of her skill before heading to Rio with the Canadian National Team. In the 30th minute, she came up big when her quick reaction saved a driven header from Sky Blue forward Tasha Kai. Defender Kelley O’Hara played a well-placed cross that landed within feet of the goal and found Kai.
The Washington Spirit will play its next home game next Saturday, July 2 against reigning champions FC Kansas City. The Spirit will be without both their American and Canadian internationals until August as both teams prepare for and compete in the Rio Olympics.
The Spirit are now in fourth place with 17 points, six points behind the league-leading Portland Thorns FC with 23, and the Chicago Red Stars and Western NY Flash with 18 each. However, the Spirit have a game-in-hand after a match with Houston was postponed due to heavy rains back in May. That match is scheduled to be made up on August 18.
Top: Spirit forward Diana Matheson (8) headed a ball from Estefania Banini past Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Caroline Stanley to get the Spirit on the board in the 77th minute of play.
Next: Spirit forward Katie Stengel (12) is guarded by Sky Blue defender Christie Rampone (3) as she works the ball into the Sky Blue FC offensive zone.
Next: Spirit keeper Stephanie Labbé grabs a save off of a shot from Sky Blue and USWNT star Kelley O’Hara.
Next: Spirit forward Estefania Banini carries the ball into the Sky Blue defensive third during Saturday’s 2-1 loss to team from New Jersey.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.