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Sky Blue FC vs. Washington Spirit: Match preview and how to watch

Sky Blue FC hosts the Washington Spirit on Friday night in the only NWSL Week 11 clash.

Katie Johnson
Katie Johnson will likely feature heavily in the Sky Blue attack Friday night against the Washington Spirit.
Tom Salus, Once a Metro

Sky Blue FC v Washington Spirit

Yurcak Field, Rutgers University, Piscataway Township, N.J.

Friday, June 8, 2018

7:00 p.m. ET

Watch: go90.com/app (U.S. fans) or NWSLSoccer.com/NWSL app (international fans)

Sky Blue FC (0-8-1, 1 point) will host the Washington Spirit (2-7-2, 8 points) on Friday, June 8 at 7 p.m. ET at Yurcak Field. The battle will be the only NWSL match-up for Week 11, as the league’s seven other teams are observing the FIFA international break.

The league’s bottom two teams met not long ago, facing off on Wednesday, May 23 for Sky Blue’s only midweek match of the season so far. The Spirit won that match, 1-0, thanks to a second-half goal by reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year Ashley Hatch.

Both teams are desperately in need of three points on Friday, as Sky Blue has yet to record their first win of 2018, while the Spirit have yet to win on the road this year.

The match marks the first time this season that former Sky Blue FC coach Jim Gabarra visits Yurcak Field. Sky Blue will not only be looking for their first win of the season, but they’ll be looking for just their second win over Gabarra at Yurcak Field. With the Spirit at Yurcak Field, Gabarra holds a 3-1-0 record, while the Spirit hold a 8-7-2 all-time record against Sky Blue.

Because of the current international break, the two teams will be without a combined 10 players, the majority of which belong to Sky Blue. Carli Lloyd and Savannah McCaskill, unavailable last weekend while in camp with the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT), will once again be away, while Canada’s Janine Beckie and Adriana Leon, Brazil’s Thaisa Moreno, and New Zealand’s Rebekah Stott will also be away.

Add in the injuries—forward Jen Hoy has been sidelined by a right knee sprain while defenders Amanda Frisbie and Erica Skroski and midfielder Raquel Rodriguez are all questionable for the match— and Sky Blue’s roster has been thinned out quite a bit.

To help compensate for almost half of their roster being gone, Sky Blue FC has signed defender Cassidy Benintente as a National Team replacement player ahead of Friday’s match. Benintente was signed by Sky Blue partway through last season but only made one appearance for the club. Sky Blue also still have the services of former Duke standout Imani Dorsey, signed last week as a National Team replacement player.

They also still have Shea Groom, who scored her first goal of 2018 last weekend against the Utah Royals FC, and Katie Johnson, left off Mexico’s June roster despite scoring against the USWNT in April. Kailen Sheridan was also not called in for international duty, allowing Sky Blue the luxury of having their starting keeper in goal for them.

Sky Blue does stand a real chance to pick up their first win of the season against the Spirit, who are also far from full strength. Forward Mallory Pugh has been sidelined for both the Spirit and the USWNT due to right knee swelling sustained during the Spirit’s May 27 match against the Houston Dash. Havana Solaun is also unavailable for the match, while Ashley Hatch, Tori Huster, and goalkeeper Kelsey Wys are all questionable.

If the Spirit are without both Pugh and Hatch in the attack (although it seems likely that Hatch will see the field), that severely limits their goal-scoring ability, especially since Francisca Ordega is also away on international duty. Pugh, Hatch, and Ordega have combined to score eight of the Spirit’s 10 goals this season. The other two were scored by Estefania Banini and Joanna Lohman, both of whom the Spirit will have Friday night.

They will also have midfielder Andi Sullivan, who inexplicably was not called into the current USWNT camp. Since being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft, Sullivan has played every minute of her rookie season, commandeering the Spirit midfield.

As she’s proven at Stanford, Sullivan is not only capable of controlling the game’s pace, serving as a link-up piece in the middle, and creating goal-scoring opportunities, but she can also score goals herself. She has yet to find the back of the net for the Spirit, but Friday night against a weakened Sky Blue defense may just be her best chance of the season thus far.

The last time these two teams met, it very much looked like a match between the two worst teams in the league. With so much firepower missing from both teams, Friday night doesn’t look to fare much better, but if Sky Blue can break their six-game losing streak, it will be almost as good as a victory. Their first win of the season would just be that much sweeter.

INJURY REPORT

Sky Blue FC

OUT: Jen Hoy (right knee sprain)

QUESTIONABLE: Amanda Frisbie (neck strain), Raquel Rodriguez (back spasms), Erica Skroski (right hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Janine Beckie (CAN), Adriana Leon (CAN), Carli Lloyd (USA), Savannah McCaskill (USA), Thaisa Moreno (BRA), Rebekah Stott (NZL)

Washington Spirit

OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibia stress injury-D45), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Mallory Pugh (right knee swelling), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery-D45), Havana Solaun (left knee chondral avulsion)

QUESTIONABLE: Ashley Hatch (left hip flexor soreness), Tori Huster (right groin soreness), Kelsey Wys (right knee swelling)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Yanara Aedo (CHI), Rose Lavelle (USA), Francisca Ordega (NGA), Rebecca Quinn (CAN)