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Sky Blue suffers 1-0 road loss to Washington Spirit

The team’s seven-game winless streak is tied for worst start in NWSL history.

Sky Blue FC Katie Johnson
Katie Johnson, here playing in Sky Blue’s home match against Houston, nearly assisted a Janine Beckie goal against the Spirit, but the shot was denied.
Photo by Tom Salus

Sky Blue FC (0-6-1, 1 point) suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Washington Spirit (2-5-2, 8 points) at Maryland Soccerplex on Wednesday night in the team’s first midweek match of the season.

The lone tally was scored by reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year Ashley Hatch off a set piece in the second half, while former Sky Blue goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe registered four saves to record the shutout.

The loss extends Sky Blue’s winless start of the season to seven games, tying the 2013 Seattle Reign for worst start to an NWSL season. The team remains in last place in league standings, 25 points behind the undefeated league leaders, the North Carolina Courage.

“Obviously, this was an unfortunate result for us,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach, in the team’s statement, who was a little more candid with media in the post-game mixed zone.

The game-winning goal came in the 64th minute after defender Christina Gibbons, who entered the game in place of Erica Skroski, was called for a foul on Mallory Pugh roughly 35 yards out from the goal.

Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan took the resulting free kick, sending her lofted ball perfectly in front of the goal. Hatch perfectly positioned herself to get on the end of Sullivan’s service and managed to outjump the Sky Blue defense, bouncing her header out of Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan’s reach for the lone goal of the night.

“In order to get at least a point on the road, we have to have to capitalize on our chances, and we cannot allow ourselves to give up a goal on a set piece,” Reddy said. “We probably should have been up one or two goals during the first half, and we got a bit pressed in the second half.”

As Reddy said, Sky Blue did have a number of legitimate opportunities, most of which came in the opening half. Janine Beckie, back in the starting XI after starting on the bench last weekend, was the most dangerous attacker on goal, forcing Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe to make a number of saves around the half hour mark.

Beckie’s first solid chance came in the 27th minute, when Carli Lloyd played a through-ball to Katie Johnson on the left side. Johnson then connected with Beckie, who took a quick touch before blasting a shot from outside the area that bent towards the upper 90 and looked destined to go in. However, Bledsoe was equal to the task, punching Beckie’s shot away for a Sky Blue corner.

In the 36th minute, Beckie had another chance on goal following a turnover created by Johnson. The ball landed at Raquel Rodriguez’s feet, and the midfielder played the ball to where Beckie was making a run towards goal. The forward cut right and fired off another dangerous shot, this time toward the far post, but Bledsoe again made the save.

Although the Spirit outshot Sky Blue 15-10, Sky Blue did have the better chances, putting four shots on goal compared to the Spirit’s three. However, Bledsoe’s four saves was enough to prevent Sky Blue from getting on the scoresheet, earning the home team the win and Bledsoe her second Spirit clean sheet.

Sky Blue now returns home to Yurcak Field on Saturday for their third match in eight days. They host the second-ranked Seattle Reign on May 26 for the teams’ third and final meeting of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.