The Washington Spirit kicked off the 2020 NWSL Fall Series Saturday with a 1-2 loss at Segra Field against Sky Blue FC.
In the early minutes, both teams struggled to find consistency. With several Sky Blue forwards not with the team, Midge Purce started the game on the left wing and consistently posed a threat running at the Spirit defense.
It was the work-rate of Sky Blue forward Ifeoma Onumonu, however, that led to the first goal of the game. Spirit centerback Sam Staab was caught in possession by Onumonu, who proceeded to hit a rocket of a shot into the top right corner past a diving Aubrey Bledsoe.
For Washington, the first half was presented a struggle to move the ball up the field and only a handful of true goal-scoring opportunities. When the Spirit did look dangerous, it was due to quality link-up play between Bayley Feist, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Kumi Yokoyama.
At the beginning of the second half, the Spirit started showing more intensity. The insertion of undrafted rookie Meghan McCool brought some life to the team as the Spirit looked more potent in the attack.
With time winding down, Feist picked up the ball in the final third and played a pass that somehow found its way through to Jessie Scarpa, who took a touch and was brought down inside the penalty box by Sky Blue defender Erika Skroski.
Spirit Defender Paige Nielsen, who had another quality defensive performance, stepped up to take the P.K. with a chance to even the score. A slow run-up was followed by a dart of a shot that whizzed by Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. The Spirit had evened the game at one all in the 89’.
With six minutes of added time, the contest was far from over. Sky Blue continued to press up the field with second-half substitute Mallory Pugh hitting the woodwork. Any relief was short lived, however, as Pugh and Purce linked up to score in the 90+2’to seal the win.
A disappointing loss, there were positives to be taken away. Several rookie players saw the field — Jaye Boissiere, Averie Collins, Natalie Jacobs, Katie McClure, McCool and Scarpa.
Washington will now begin preparation for next Saturday’s match against the Chicago Red Stars at 12pm ET on Twitch.
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