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Sky Blue FC drops 1-0 result to Spirit in front of sold out crowd

The 5,003 fans is Sky Blue’s second-highest NWSL attendance.

Julie Doyle was an attacking threat for Sky Blue, but her fourth yellow card of the season could be troublesome down the road.
Tom Salus

Sky Blue FC (2-9-2, 8 points) fell to the Washington Spirit (6-4-3, 21 points), in front of a sold out crowd of 5,003 fans at Yurcak Stadium.

Ashley Hatch scored the lone goal of the night, a tally early in the second half, to snap the Spirit’s five-game winless streak. The three points earned on the night put the Spirit well in playoff contention, in third place just after the season’s halfway mark.

The lone goal of the match was scored in the 54th minute by Ashley Hatch, who slipped through the Sky Blue defense to go one-v-one with Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. Although Sheridan came off her line and attempted to make the kick save, Hatch slotted her shot out of the reach of the keeper’s outstretched leg and into the back of the net for the game winner. The goal is Hatch’s fourth of the season.

Although it was a one-goal game at the final whistle, the Spirit dominated the match. The visitors took 12 shots to Sky Blue’s one in the first half, although both teams only managed to put a shot apiece on target.

The Spirit finished the match with 17 shots (to Sky Blue’s five), three of which were on goal. They also had a hearty 64.1 percent of possession during the match.

For Sky Blue, both midfielder Julie (nee James) Doyle and defender Erica Skroski put shots on target, while attackers Lloyd and Raquel Rodriguez had productive shifts, nearly creating a goal for the home team in the 14th minute, but Rodriguez skied her shot.

Of some concern to fans may be Doyle’s challenge on Lavelle in the 50th minute, in which Doyle looked to have gone studs up on Lavelle, causing the Spirit and USWNT midfielder to limp off. Doyle was booked for the poor tackle, her fourth of the season.

She will now have to be extra careful to avoid picking up a fifth yellow card and, therefore, a one-game suspension. The rookie has been a dynamic force for the Sky Blue attack, and they would be sore without her.

The match was Sky Blue’s World Cup Return Night, honoring its three players that participated in this year’s tournament, most notably Carli Lloyd of the back-to-back World Cup Champions, the United States Women’s National Team.

The Spirit also featured two of Lloyd’s U.S. teammates, Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh, as well as Jamaica’s Cheyna Matthews. The team’s World Cup participants were honored in a post-game ceremony.

The return of the teams’ World Cup players—especially the draw of players such as Lloyd, Lavelle and Pugh—were no doubt the largest contributing factor in Wednesday’s night’s sell out crowd. Sky Blue has consistently had the lowest attendance all season, struggling to get even two thousands fans in the stands at one time.

So for the team to draw over five thousands fans on a Wednesday night for the club’s second-highest NWSL attendance is impressive, even if it pales in comparison to Chicago’s record-breaking attendance of over 17,000 last Sunday.

The important thing will be for Sky Blue to continue bringing fans in and to get results on the field. Wednesday’s loss keeps the team in last place, where they have spent most of the last two seasons.

They’ll look to bounce back this Sunday, July 28, when they hit to road to take on the Houston Dash. That match kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on Yahoo! Sports.

Full #NJvWAS highlights are below.