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Spirit Begin 2019 Campaign with 2-0 Win in NWSL Opener

The Washington Spirit kicked off the 2019 NWSL season by ending a 15-game winless streak, with a commanding 2-0 victory over Sky Blue FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday night. With the win, the Spirit moved to the top of the NWSL table.

In the second half, Spirit rookie defender Samantha Staab recorded the first goal of her NWSL career and gave the Spirit a 1-0 in the 59th minute after a scramble following a corner ended with the ball at Staab’s feet. Staab, from near the penalty spot, struck a low left-footed shot through a cluster of players and found the bottom right corner of the net.

The Spirit nearly grabbed an early lead in the 13th minute after forward Mallory Pugh gathered the ball up-field and found Cheyna Matthews on the left side of the six-yard box. Matthews’ attempt was saved by the keeper but pushed into the path of Ashley Hatch who finished the chance, only for it to be called offside.

The Spirit continued to move forward through Pugh as she cut inside from left to right at the top of the box and sent a bending ball just over the bar in the 21st minute. The ball found Pugh inside the box again one minute later, and she split through two defenders after quick dribbling, but her shot was blocked.

The Spirit’s best chance of the half came in the 25th minute after the ball found midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard at the top of the box. Dougherty Howard connected cleanly with the ball on a volley, but the drive whipped just over the bar.

After the first half, the Spirit had a firm grip on the game. Washington boasted 62 percent possession and a passing accuracy of 85 percent to Sky Blue’s 71 percent. Maintaining possession was one of the aspects of the game that new Spirit Head Coach Richie Burke wanted to improve.