After falling behind early, the Washington Spirit scored four unanswered second half goals to win 4-1 over Sky Blue FC in front of of a crowd of 2,496 on Friday night at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Both sides were missing key players as the NWSL resumed play following the break for international games. Sky Blue forward Sam Kerr — the NWSL’s all-time leading goalscorer who currently sits in second place in the league with 11 goals — missed the match after competing with Australia and winning the Tournament of Nations, which concluded last night. Sky Blue FC defender Kelley O’Hara and Spirit forward Mallory Pugh represented the United States in the tournament and were also unavailable for Friday night’s match.
Sky Blue FC forward Maya Hayes scored in just the second minute to put the home side up 1-0 shortly after kickoff, but the Spirit offense overpowered Sky Blue in the game’s final 40 minutes.
Sky Blue had a few chances in the 27th minute to make it 2-0, but were denied by Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Midfielder Daphne Corboz threaded a ball into the box for McKenzie Meehan, but Labbé was right there to make the save on the shot. Meehan picked up the rebound and passed to Taylor Lytle to keep the play alive, but Lytle’s cross to Stanton was headed just wide and out of danger.
The Spirit went into halftime down 1-0, but it wouldn’t stay that way long after the second half kickoff, as the scoring began in the 51st minute for Washington. Rookie Arielle Ship collected a pass from Tori Huster, with a great touch around Sky Blue defender Christie Pearce to bring down the high ball. The forward then dribbled down the right wing and just inside the top corner of the penalty area, before launch a laser to the far post that beat Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan to the upper corner. It was Ship’s first professional goal.
— NWSL (@NWSL) August 5, 2017
In the 61st minute, Labbé would play a part on the offensive side of things. Her long goal kick soared over all 20 field players for both teams, leaving Ship and Spirit forward Cheyna Williams chasing it down alongside two Sky Blue defenders as it bounced into the box. Ship finally got a touch on it near the penalty spot as Sheridan came out to try to make a play. The touch was a tad too heavy, though, and the ball was about to just miss wide left by inches.
But Williams managed to get onto the end of it, sliding to the ground and tapping it over the line with her left foot to make it 2-1.
The Spirit would make make it 3-1 in the 73rd minute as rookie Meggie Dougherty Howard won a Sheridan free kick at midfield and passed it to Ship. Dougherty Howard continued her run and Ship passed it back to her in between two Sky Blue defenders at the top of the area. The rookie placed her shot to the lower corner for her first NWSL goal.
— NWSL (@NWSL) August 5, 2017
Sheridan appeared to hurt her left ankle on the play but stayed in for the remainder of the game.
The Spirit got their final goal of the game after drawing a penalty kick in the 87th minute. Sky Blue midfielder Sarah Killion fouled Dougherty Howard in the box and forward Havana Solaun converted the penalty to complete the 4-1 win.