Boyds, MD—Before the match between the Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC even began, it was threatened by weather as thunderstorms rolled by Maureen Hendricks Field late in the afternoon. Even warm ups were cut short to get the game started. It was a true battle as serious errors were made on both sides of the ball. As the match kicked off, both teams were battling for possession. Sky Blue FC Midfielder Katy Freels had her first chance in the third minute when Washington Spirit Captain/Defender Tori Huster gave up possession at the top of the box after pressure from Freels. Freels took an extra step before shooting leaving just enough time for Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys to make a sliding save.
The momentum quickly swung the other way when Sky Blue midfielder Shawna Gordon fouled Washington Spirit Forward Francisca Ordega just outside of the Sky Blue box in the fifth minute. Washington Spirit midfielder Christine Nairn took the free kick. The ball was sent to the back post where Spirit midfielder Angela Salem got her head on it, but Sky Blue keeper Brittany Cameron made the diving save conceding a corner kick. Salem put the corner kick into play and it was headed toward goal by Spirit midfielder Joanna Lohman. The ball bounced downward off the crossbar and ricocheted off of Huster’s knee out of bounds for a goal kick. The Spirit once again created another chance in the ninth minute when striker Ordega dispossessed Sky Blue midfielder Freels and dribbled through centerfield. She sent an ambitious pass forward for midfielder Crystal Dunn who was making a run down the left wing, but was unable to get on the end of the pass.
The pitch conditions were proving to be a factor as numerous players were losing their footing, and although not the main culprit of possession changes, it definitely made a difference in game play. The teams had a considerable difference in amount of shots, 21 from Sky Blue FC and 9 from the Washington Spirit. Just forty percent of the match’s total shots were on frame; both teams did well to create chances, but were unable to finish adequately. Sky Blue FC striker Nadia Nadim took seven shots, the most of her team, while the Washington Spirit’s shots were spread across the team.
The Washington Spirit pressed hard for the first 20 minutes, but was unable to stretch or break through the Sky Blue FC backline. This could be partially attributed to an interesting position change made on the part of Sky Blue FC. Maya Hayes who was drafted by Sky Blue in the first round of the 2014 NWSL Draft as a natural striker made the switch to right back. She had the task of marking Spirit midfielder Crystal Dunn and keeping her from threatening goal. Hayes’ pace was a great asset to keep Dunn in check, and this proved to be a great battle through the entire match. Dunn attempted a field switch on a couple of occasions, but Hayes was relentless, and allowed zero leeway for Dunn to move freely.
In the 14th minute Spirit striker Ordega was challenged by Sky Blue midfielder Gordon resulting in an ankle injury as they got tangled up on the right flank of the Spirit attack. Ordega stood on the sideline for five minutes with a trainer while she was evaluated; play resumed and the Spirit was fighting to maintain an even playing field with 10 players on the field. Most notably midfielder Crystal Dunn stepped forward to cover the gap between her and Ordega’s positions. Ordega reentered the game in the 19th minute and played the rest of the match.
Sky Blue got their attack going in the 21st minute when midfielder Taylor Lytle sent a cross into the box, but it was headed clear by the Spirit defense. Sky Blue defender Maya Hayes connected with striker Nadia Nadim who took a light shot, but Spirit keeper Kelsey Wys was there to clean it up in the 23rd minute. A better chance for Sky Blue came in the 24th minute when midfielder Kim DeCesare sent a pass to Nadim in the box. Wys came out for the save colliding with Nadim, but did not safely wrap it up. With the ball under her, Nadim hurried to get to her feet and appeared to nudge the ball with her arm, but much to the crowd’s dismay no call was made from the referee. She made a hurried shot attempt, but Wys once again made the save.
The Washington Spirit struggled with possession in the middle of the first half as Sky Blue pressed harder, losing balls to careless passing and players making less runs forward. There were multiple cross attempts that went unacknowledged by the Spirit simply because there were no numbers forward. An opportunity came and went in the 29th minute when Crystal Dunn sent a pass forward to Joanna Lohman outside the box, who then passed to Christine Nairn. Nairn crossed the ball into the box for Francisca Ordega who failed to make contact with the ball. It was ultimately cleared by a Sky Blue FC header.
Another dangerous Sky Blue chance came in the 33rd minute when they rallied forward; striker Nadim fired a hard shot from 20 yards out forcing keeper Wys to push the ball over the crossbar and out of harm’s way. The resulting corner kick was yet another missed opportunity as midfielder Gordon sent the cross in to defender Kristin Grubka whose shot was saved by a goal line stand by Spirit midfielder Crystal Dunn. Sky Blue was still not finished as they kept the pressure on in the 37th minute; a flick on from midfield was picked up by forward Nadim, who was awarded another corner kick in a fight to make a cross near the Spirit touch line. Keeper Kelsey Wys made an unsuccessful attempt to clear the cross; it was momentarily cleared by the defense, but Wys was forced to make a diving save when Sky Blue defender Lindsi Cutshall took a shot from the top of the box. The last attempt in the series of threats came in the 39th minute when a header from Sky Blue midfielder Gordon was picked up by Nadim. Nadim crossed to midfielder Freels who took another shot, but it was saved as Wys dove left to make the stop.
The half would end scoreless with both teams frustrated by inconsistent possession, strong attacking pushes, strong back line performance, and poor finishing.
The second half began with a Washington Spirit substitution: forward Laura Del Rio replaced midfielder Joanna Lohman. In the first minute of the half, a nervy misclearance by Spirit defender Megan Oyster allowed Sky Blue forward Nadia Nadim to play a cross into the box. The Washington Spirit was able to avoid danger once again. As Sky Blue FC began to push once again, the Washington Spirit kept focus on possession stringing passes together around the back line until an opportunity opened up to move forward. In the 50th minute striker Laura Del Rio dribbled forward, but was dispossessed just beyond the centerline, midfielder Crystal Dunn was there to regain possession, but again there was no supporting run forward and the play was lost.
Sky Blue FC dominated 50/50 challenges in the air, which allowed them to create more opportunity to go forward. According to head coach Jim Gabarra “That’s the best by far we’ve played, the most chances we’ve created.” The team was awarded eight corner kicks as compared to Washington’s three. The Spirit did a great job defending each corner kick, as none were wasted by Sky Blue as an opportunity to threaten the net.
Sky Blue’s Nadim nearly had a 1 v 1 situation with Washington keeper Wys in the 59th minute when Spirit defender Megan Oyster lost her footing and fell to the pitch; Nadim ran by Oyster to collect the ball at about 10 yards from goal. Just as she made contact, Spirit center back Estelle Johnson slid goal side to the ball and deflected the shot from goal. In the 62nd minute Nadim again threatens as Washington was unable to shut her out of the attack. She beat the defense to a slotted pass which she tried a clever chip over the hands of Wys. Wys was able to get a hand on it to make the save to concede another corner kick.
Sky Blue FC used their first substitution in the 71st minute: midfielder Lo’eau Labonta entered the game for midfielder Shawna Gordon. Their second and third substitutions occurred in the 75th and 82nd minutes with midfielder Theresa Diederich making her professional debut in for Kim DeCesare and defender Maruschka Waldus coming on for midfielder Taylor Lytle respectively. The Washington Spirit also used a substitution in the 82nd minute bringing on midfielder Amanda Da Costa for midfielder Angela Salem. When asked why he did not utilize all available substitutions in a scoreless situation head coach Mark Parsons responded with a harsh, “I didn’t make more subs because I couldn’t decide who deserved to come off more,” adding, “because it was bad, really bad and they know it.”
The last 10 minutes of regulation time appeared that both teams were losing steam and trying to pick their moments. With time running out, there were a handful of chances, but nothing appeared to be as threatening as the earlier chances in the match. The game would be extended by two minutes for stoppage time. As the clock wound down and it appeared that it would end in a draw, the Washington Spirit was rewarded by a last chance play. Midfielder Crystal Dunn had possession in the top of the Spirit half. She looked down field to see Ordega making a run forward and sent the pass successfully connecting with Ordega. With Sky Blue keeper Cameron off her line, Ordega chipped the ball around her into the net for the game winning goal seconds before the whistle blew.
With this win the Washington Spirit move to second in the league, while Sky Blue FC moves to eighth. The Washington Spirit takes on the Western New York Flash Saturday May 23, 2015 at 7pm/ET at Sahlen’s Stadium. Sky Blue FC meets the Boston Breakers Friday May 22, 2015 at 7pm/ET at Soldier’s Field Soccer Stadium.
– MATCH REPORT –
Match: Sky Blue FC at Washington Spirit
Date: May 16th, 2015
Venue: Maryland Soccerplex (Boyds, MD)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Delayed to 7:15 p.m. ET)
Scoring Summary 1 2 F
SBFC 0 0 0
WAS 0 1 1
WAS: Francisca Ordega, 92’ (Dunn)
Lineups & Stats
SBFC: GK Brittany Cameron, D Kristin Grubka, D Hayley Haagsma, D Lindsi Cutshall, D Cami Levin, M Shawna Gordon (Labonta, 71), M Taylor Lytle (Waldus, 82), M Katy Freels, M Kim DeCesare (Diederich, 75), F Maya Hayes, F Nadia Nadim
WAS: GK Kelsey Wys, D Megan Oyster, D Whitney Church, D Estelle Johnson, D Crystal Dunn, M Angela Salem (Da Costa, 82), M Christine Nairn, M Joanna Lohman (Del Rio, 46), M Tori Huster, M Katherine Reynolds, F Francisca Ordega