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Sky Blue FC hold on to beat Spirit 2-1

BOYDS, Md. — Sky Blue FC stayed perfect on Saturday night, defeating the Washington Spirit 2-1 at the Maryland SoccerPlex in front of a crowd of 3,102. Defender Coco Goodson got Sky Blue in the opening minutes and midfielder Sophie Schmidt added another in early in the second half. Diana Matheson scored Washington’s lone goal in the 35th minute.

Sky Blue started the game off with a bang by converting their first opportunity of the night. Danesha Adams took a cornerkick in the 2nd minute which was headed in by Goodson to give Sky Blue the advantage. The goal was largely due to the Spirit’s poor marking in the box.

Sky Blue played in a 4-3-3 formation with Danesha Adams, Lisa De Vanna and Kelley O’Hara as the front runners.  The speedy forwards often tested the Spirit backline

Several times Spirit defenders attempted to back pass the ball to goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris at ill-advised moments. Harris was then forced kick the ball away under intense pressure. In the 11th minute,  this nearly led to a collision between Harris and De Vanna.

De Vanna had a fantastic opportunity to extend Sky Blue’s lead in the 20th minute. She beat the Spirit backline leaving only Harris between her and the goal, but De Vanna’s shot from about 15 yards out was well off target.

Matheson leveled the score in the 35th minute off a low cross from Lori Lindsey. Lindsey sent the ball across with both Matheson and Tiffany McCarty in the area.

“Originally, I saw Tiff and I was thinking about bending it around but I was afraid that it was going to be easily taken off by defenders, so I just tried to slot it as hard as I could across when I saw Diana coming too.” Lindsey said on her assist.

The game didn’t remain tied for long as Sky Blue nabbed the game winner three minutes into the second half. De Vanna brought the ball forward for Sky Blue on the counter attack, attracting the attention of several Spirit defenders. She then passed it to Sophie Schmidt, who calmly placed the ball in the back of the net.

Sky Blue would spend the rest of the night looking for an elusive insurance goal but were unable to find one.  Sky Blue head coach Jim Gabarra admitted after scoring in early parts of each half, Sky Blue, “didn’t have killer instinct to get the third and fourth goal.”

Credit for Sky Blue’s inability to find another goal must also be given to Harris, who kept her side in the match. Harris recorded eight saves.

Spirit forward Caroline Miller was subbed on for McCarty in the 71st minute and made a significant impact for her side. The young forward fought hard to keep the ball in the Spirit offensive half of the field and was responsible for Brittany Cameron’s toughest save on the night. In the 79th minute, Miller rocketed a shot at Cameron who was forced to make a diving save.

“She’s learning and growing as a player and tonight was a good example,” Spirit head coach Mike Jorden said of Miller. “I was happy with her performance for sure. The stop Cameron made on that ball, it was going in the corner. She did a great job of getting in there and getting the shot off.”

Despite placing heavy pressure on Sky Blue’s backline for the last fifteen minutes of the game, the team was unable to find an equalizer.

For the second time in as many matches, the Spirit forwards failed to record a goal or assist. Several times during the game, McCarty seemed hesitant to pull the trigger. Most notably, in the 41st min, McCarty had a one vs. one opportunity and instead of taking the shot, she attempted to pass the ball when none of her teammates were in the area.

Given Miller’s strong performance as a substitution and Jorden’s praise of her post game, will Miller get more playing time next Saturday against the Thorns?

Meanwhile, Sky Blue will hope to continue their winning streak Wednesday when they face the Western New York Flash in Rochester, N.Y., in the league’s first mid-week match.

Talking points:

  • Kelley O’Hara Forward Watch continues. While she didn’t get on the scoreboard, with some early focus on her, Lisa DeVanna was able to find plenty of space to cause havoc for the Spirit backline.
  • D-Math is D-Money. The Spirit needed her to step up big in the middle of the field to create plays and chances, and she did that and more. Her goal in the first should be on the highlight reels for the third week of action in the NWSL.
  • The match had great pace and an open feel, with both teams trading dangerous shots through the full ninety minutes. The Spirit will regret their terrible marking on the Danesha Adams corner kick that allowed Coco Goodson’s easy goal in the 2nd minute, as otherwise the game could have easily swung their way.

Additional reporting from Meg Linehan.

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