New Jersey Sky Blue FC will make its only visit to the Maryland SoccerPlex for the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League regular season this Saturday evening, as the Washington Spirit plays the second leg of a two-game homestand. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm, on Saturday, April 6.
The Spirit enter the match seeking its first win of the season, after coming up just short in a 1-0 decision last Saturday at home against the Houston Dash. Canadian international goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé and the Spirit back line limited their opponent to one goal for a third straight week, helping land Labbé and defender Estelle Johnson on the NWSL Team of the Month for April. Labbé has racked up 17 saves over the course of three matches in April, which is good for second in the league. Johnson’s eight tackles won are tied for the second-most in the NWSL.
Denmark international midfielder Line Sigvardsen Jensen’s first career NWSL goal in the Spirit’s 1-1 draw against the Orlando Pride on April 22 is the only goal so far this season for the club. Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra’s squad enters Week 4 looking to get the offense on track.
“This should be a quality match against Sky Blue and a great opportunity to improve,” Gabarra said. “Sky Blue has a talented roster and we look forward to the challenge they present.”
Sky Blue FC opened the season with a 1-1 draw against Seattle Reign FC on April 15 and a 1-0 loss to the Boston Breakers on April 22. In the club’s home opener last Sunday, Sky Blue shutout FC Kansas City 1-0 for its first win of the season. Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan notched her first professional clean sheet and Costa Rica international Raquel Rodriguez netted the game-winner in the 82nd minute.
Much like Washington, Sky Blue has been one of the stronger defensive sides in the league through the first three weeks. Mandy Freeman and Christie Pearce have anchored the back line, tying for third in the NWSL with 19 clearances each, as Sky Blue has allowed just two goals.
Sky Blue is also third in the league in possession, controlling the ball for 52.1 percent of the time. Midfielder Sarah Killion leads the league in completed passes with 151, including a league-high 69 completed passes in the opponent’s half of the field. Rodriguez has been instrumental in the possession battle as well, winning 19 duels in the first three matches, good for third in the NWSL. Six of those duels were won in the air.
The Spirit matched up four times with Sky Blue FC in 2016, splitting the season series. After swapping 2-1 results with the away teams winning both of the first two meetings on April 24 and June 26, Sky Blue won 1-0 at home in the third game on July 24 and the Spirit won 3-1 at Maureen Hendricks Field in the fourth and final match-up on July 31.
Tickets for all Spirit home matches are available at the Washington Spirit Website.
Top: Washington Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé (1) grabs a shot from Houston Dash’s Denise O’Sullivan (13). Labbé was named to the inaugural NWSL Team of the Month as selected by the NWSL Media Association for April 2017.
Next: Spirit defender Estelle Johnson (24) has played every minute so far for the Spirit and has 188 touches and eight tackles won (second-best in the league) over the 270 minutes, and was also named to the NWSL Team of the Month.
Next: Nigerian national team player and Spirit forward Francisca Ordega (14).
Photos by Germantown Pulse, video courtesy Washington Spirit.