The Soccer Desk

Spirit Downed By Sky Blue FC

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On Saturday, the Washington Spirit were defeated by the visiting Sky Blue FC at the Maryland Soccer Plex. For the first time in this young NWSL season, fans got a chance to see Kelly O’Hara feature as a forward. O’Hara, was a forward at Stamford University before being converted to defense with the US National Team. She featured as a forward for Sky Blue during the preseason, but this was her first regular season game leading the line for the New Jersey outfit.

Sky Blue got off to a fast start, as the Spirit conceded an early corner kick in just the 2nd minute. CoCo Goodson immediately capitalized finding the back of the net and beating Harris to put the visitors up 1-0. Within minutes of giving up the opening goal, Washington was on the attack looking for the equalizer. Stephanie Ochs’ shot from 30 yards out tested the alertness of Cameron, calling her into action. The Spirit’s early pressure was consistent, but they could not find a goal. A dangerous back-pass to Harris almost saw forward Lisa De Vanna slot into the empty net, but Harris was quick to remedy the situation getting to the ball in time.

The Sky Blue attack looked lethal when given time and space, but Harris and the Spirit defense stood strong after allowing the early opening goal. In the 20th minute Lisa De Vanna had another great opportunity for Sky Blue going one-on-one with Harris, only to put her shot just wide of the goal. Washington would continue to pressure though, as Ali Kreiger flew down the right side picking out Matheson whose subsequent cross to McCarty resulted in another wasted opportunity. In the 26th minute, Kendall Johnson brought down a streaking Matheson right outside of the penalty area resulting in a free kick. Lori Lindsey took the free kick, which pin-balled around the Sky Blue area eventually finding Kika Toulouse. A hard sliding challenge from Kelly O’Hara brought about the first yellow of the game and another Spirit free kick. Lindsey took the kick, seeing her shot sail just over the bar.

The breakthrough the Spirit were looking for came in the 35th minute as Lori Lindsey arced a cross over the Sky Blue defense finding Diana Matheson who calmly slotted home tying the game 1-1. Matheson, who caused the Flash defense problems last week, continued to trouble Sky Blue’s defense here. After the equalizer, the Spirit kicked up the tempo and continued to press for the go-ahead goal. Sky Blue seemed a little fractured after letting in the equalizer, but held strong for the remainder of the half. In the first minute of injury time De Vanna nearly broke the deadlock, but Harris was equal to the task and kept the score level. When the half-time whistle blew, the teams were still knotted 1-1.

Fans would not have to wait long for the tie to be broken however. A 46th minute strike from Sophie Schmidt beat Harris tilting the balance in Sky Blue’s favor. Sky Blue would continue their pressure on Washington, who looked shaky to start the second half. Sky Blue came close to increasing their lead in the 57th minute, when poor clearance by the Spirit defense sent De Vanna in again, one-on-one with Harris. Harris was able to keep Washington within striking distance with a great diving stop. The first Spirit substitution of the game came when Domenica Hodak entered in the 58th minute for Kika Toulouse. The Spirit refused to go quietly into the night however, and kept pressing for the second equalizer. Sky Blue were content sitting on their lead, denying Washington a breakthrough equalizer as momentum continued shifting towards the New Jersey side. A rare mistake by the Sky Blue defense in the second half sprung Matheson, finding a wide open McCarty who rolled the ball off her foot directly to Cameron.

Spirit Coach Mike Jorden had seen enough. In the 71st minute, Caroline Miller entered the game for Tiffany McCarty. Unable to convert Sky Blue’s best second half opportunity, McCarty was withdrawn and her night was now over. Sky Blue continued to put pressure on a young Spirit defense, but Harris was doing everything in her power to hold position. Spirit persistence almost paid off in the 80th minute when Caroline Miller put a shot on goal that had Cameron scrambling. In the 83rd minute, Lori Lindsey unleashed a shot from about 30 yards out that sailed just over the crossbar. Washington was desperately searching for an equalizer. The final Spirit substitution came in the 86th minute, when Jasmyn Spencer entered the game for Ingrid Wells. The final attack was on for Washington, but the second goal ultimately eluded their grasp. Sky Blue had handed the Spirit their first loss of the season.

Washington will now prepare to face the Portland Thorns next Saturday at the Maryland Soccer Plex. When asked how to prepare for the speed of Portland with Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson responded jokingly, “Christine…Never heard of her.” All joking aside though, the Thorns could prove to be major thorns in the side of Spirit in what should be a high energy clash.