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Sky Blue FC looks to ride momentum against Washington

New Jersey team hopes last-minute penalty kick snaps team out of offensive doldurms

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Sooner or later, we might find out if Nadia Nadim’s stoppage-time penalty kick last Saturday night did more than just secure a point and give the Sky Blue FC a 1-1 draw with the Seattle Reign.

It might be the moment that jump-starts the Sky Blue offense and lead to another winning streak.

We might see as soon as tonight when Sky Blue FC (1-2-20 travels to the nation’s capital to meet the Washington Spirit (2-2-1) in a 7 p.m. first kick. 

So far this season, offense and defense have been polar opposites for Sky Blue.

Offensively, the Sky Blue are scoring less than a goal a game. They have not scored more than one goal in a game and have not outshot an opponent. Nadim’s penalty, after a flurry of action led to a hand ball call, saved what was sure to be a demoralizing loss.

Defense has saved Sky Blue’s season so far. Goalkeeper Brittany Cameron has been a lifesaver. She’s been spectacular in all five games. Against Seattle, she was amazing again, at one point parryijng consecutive shots from point-blank range to keep the Sky Blue in the match.

A cohesive defense led by rookie Kristin Grupba, Lindsi Cutshall and Cami Levin have helped Sky Blue to the third-lowest goals-against average at 1.20.

The draw put an end to a run of two straight losses but Washington poses another problem. The Spiirt come in as the fourth-highest scoring team in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with a 1.80 goals per game average.

Crystal Dunn looks to be the Spirit’s hottest attacker, sporting a goal or an assist in each of the team’s last four games. Her four goals are tied for the league lead. Dunn scored twice in a 3-1 win over Sky Blue FC three weeks ago.

"This is the last time we play Washington this season, so it is very important that we get three points," said Jim Gabarra, Sky Blue FC technical director and head coach. "When you look at the standings, it really shows how great of an opportunity this game is for us, so we cannot afford to maek the same mistakes we made the first time we played them. We have to do a better job of creating chances and scoring goals. Saturday ill be a nice day in a beautiful stadium and we are looking forward to it."

Washington leads Sky Blue FC by only two points in the NWSL table, which also gives Sky Blue a chance to move ahead of the Spirit in the early going.