The Washington Spirit will finish off the 2018 NWSL season at the Maryland SoccerPlex against East Coast foe Sky Blue FC on Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm with a live stream on the NWSL app and website.
Saturday will be the third meeting of the season between the two sides, with the Spirit earning a 1-0 win in the first matchup on May 23. Spirit forward Ashley Hatch powered home a 64th minute header for the game-winner and midfielder Andi Sullivan recorded her first career assist on the play.
In their second meeting, the Spirit and Sky Blue played to a scoreless draw on June 8 in New Jersey. Washington’s last game was the club’s debut at the newly-built Audi Field in Washington, D.C., a close match in which they fell to Portland Thorns FC 1-0, with an early goal from Tobin Heath being the decider.
With eight players out Saturday due to national team duty, the Spirit will look to second-leading scorer Francisca Ordega (3 goals), who is expected to make her return from a multiple game absence due to injury.
Second-year forward Arielle Ship made her first appearance of the 2018 season last weekend at Audi Field, playing nine minutes off the bench in her first action since sustaining a torn ACL in August 2017.
Ordega, Ship and the rest of the Spirit attack will look to break through against a Sky Blue FC defense which has conceded an average of 2.2 goals per game on the season.
“We are thrilled that we get to complete the season at the Plex,” said Spirit interim head coach Tom Torres. “It will be a great opportunity for everyone to show their quality and represent the club.”
The Spirit defense has been anchored all season long by goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who leads the NWSL with 103 saves, and has combined with the back line to rack up four clean sheets. Defenders Caprice Dydasco and Taylor Smith have played in all 23 games in 2018 for Washington, and are expected to finish off their full-season streaks Saturday night.
Bledsoe and the Spirit back line will be focused on Sky Blue FC’s Katlyn Johnson, their joint-leading scorer (4 goals). Sky Blue FC’s other leading scorer, Imani Dorsey, will be away with the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team. Sky Blue will also be without forwards Carli Lloyd (USA) and Savannah McCaskill (USA U-23), who have each netted three goals this season.
Washington’s eight players missing Saturday’s match against Sky Blue due to international duty include Hatch, the team’s leading scorer with four goals. Hatch is currently playing for the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team in the Nordic Tournament, along with Mallory Eubanks and Sullivan.
Meanwhile, midfielder Rose Lavelle and forward Mallory Pugh will miss the game while representing the full U.S. Women’s National Team for a pair of friendlies against Chile. Defender/midfielder Rebecca Quinn (CAN), midfielder Estefanía Banini (ARG) and goalkeeper DiDi Haracic (BIH) will miss the match as well representing their countries during the FIFA window.
Photo by Germantown Pulse