Spirit fall to Sky Blue in opening match of the NWSL’s fall series
Updated: Sep 6, 2020
In the opening match of the NWSL fall series, the Washington Spirit fell to Sky Blue FC of New Jersey by a one goal margin. The Spirit, losing key players like Tori Huster and Andi Sullivan to injury, got off to a slow start, failing to make real offensive pushes. The Spirit were also missing Rose Lavelle who was traded to OL Reign and is currently playing at Manchester City in the FAWSL, England’s NWSL equivalent.
Sky Blue FC was strong and attacking-minded right out of the gate, maintaining the majority of possession and creating opportunities. In the 18th minute, Ifoema Onumonu of Sky Blue capitalized on a defensive error from the Spirit and netted the opening goal of the match. Sky Blue continued to hold onto their lead, further asserting their dominance and firing shots at Spirit goalkeeper, Aubrey Bledsoe. Referred to as the brickwall, Bledsoe was able to block repeated shots from the likes of Midge Purce of Sky Blue.
As the first half came to an end, the Spirit were behind a goal and in desperate need of an attacking surge. At the start of the second half, Meghan McCool, a UVA product came bursting onto the scene, creating opportunities left and right, infusing some much needed energy into the match for the Spirit.
As the Spirit began to find their footing, Mallory Pugh, USWNT star and former Spirit player took the pitch for Sky Blue FC. Pugh was acquired by the New Jersey side earlier this year but did not play in the Challenge Cup due to injury. Making her first appearance for the Blues, Pugh had multiple shots on goal, threatening her former team. The Spirit maintained a high level of play, but were outmatched by Sky Blue who have seemingly found their footing in this 2020 season.
In the 89th minute, Sky Blue defender Erica Skroski tripped Spirit striker Jessie Scarpa in the box, resulting in a successful penalty kick from Paige Nielsen of the Spirit to make it 1-1. However, in true NWSL fashion, late game drama was inevitable. In the 92nd minute, Purce of Sky Blue finally scored after having spent the majority of the match hammering shots at Bledsoe. Stoppage time favored the New Jersey side and the Spirit fell 2-1 to the squad that knocked them out of the Challenge Cup just months ago. Though every team in the league is missing critical players due to injury and commitments overseas, both squads put on a good match.
The Spirit will return to action on Saturday, September 12th at 12:00pm EST against Julie Ertz and the Chicago Red Stars on Twitch.