Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyd, Md.
Saturday, September 1, 2018
7:00 p.m. ET
Watch: NWSLSoccer.com/NWSL app
Sky Blue FC (0-16-5, 5 pts) travel to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday night to take on the Washington Spirit (2-17-4, 10 pts) in the home side’s season finale.
The Spirit currently lead the two teams’ 2018 series, 1-1-0, having defeated Sky Blue, 1-0, on May 23 thanks to a second-half goal by 2017 Rookie of the Year Ashley Hatch, before battling to a scoreless draw on June 8.
If Sky Blue is able to get the win, the three points earned will not be enough to overtake the Spirit in the standings, but it will be the long-awaited first victory for the team. Any win in the NWSL is a difficult task, but it will be even harder for Sky Blue, who will be without at least five of their starters thanks to international duty. Defender Rebekah Stott, a regular starter on the New Jersey side’s backline at the start of the season, also didn’t travel with the team due to injury.
However, the Spirit are missing even more of their starters, as seven regular starters are away with their national teams while defender Estelle Johnson is unavailable due to an excused absence.
Another big change since the last time Sky Blue was in Maryland is the firing of Jim Gabarra as head coach. Gabarra coached at Sky Blue from 2013-2015 before leaving for the Spirit, where he coached for over two seasons before being fired on August 21. Assistant coach Tom Torres has stepped up as interim head coach until the season’s conclusion, when the Spirit will begin looking for a new head coach.
That leaves the Spirit a lot weaker than the last two times these teams met. However, both teams have also signed a number of National Team Replacement Players, several of which have NWSL experience, ahead of Saturday’s match.
Sky Blue FC have signed former Orlando Pride midfielder Nickolette Driesse, forward Eliza Bona, and defender Gabby Cuevas.
The Spirit have signed former Spirit forward Tiffany McCarty, former Utah Royals FC forward Alexa Newfield, and former Houston Dash defender Megan Crosson, as well as defender Zoe Clark, midfielder Brenna Connell, and goalkeeper Morgan Ruhl.
With so many new faces on either side, it will be hard to say what could happen in Saturday night’s match. The advantage seems to slightly lie in Sky Blue’s favor, and the New Jersey side will no doubt be playing to their full potential as they continue striving for their first win of the year.
Sky Blue FC
OUT: Rebekah Stott (lower back strain)
QUESTIONABLE: McKenzie Meehan (right hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Imani Dorsey (USA U-23), Katie Johnson (MEX), Carli Lloyd (USA), Savannah McCaskill (USA U-23), Raquel Rodriguez (CRC)
OUT: Tori Huster (left ankle inflammation), Estelle Johnson (excused absence), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Tiffany Weimer (left knee Baker’s cyst - D45), Kelsey Wys (right knee meniscus scope)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Estefania Banini (ARG), Mallory Eubanks (USA U-23), DiDi Haracic (BIH), Ashley Hatch (USA U-23), Rose Lavelle (USA), Mallory Pugh (USA), Rebecca Quinn (CAN), Andi Sullivan (USA U-23)