BOYDS – Following an entire overhaul during the offseason, the Washington Spirit started their 2019 NWSL season on the right foot, scoring two goals to defeat Sky Blue FC 2-0 on April 13 in front of 2,373 spectators at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.
The Spirit arrived at their season opener promising a more-possessive, attack-minded style of soccer, championed by their new head coach, Richie Burke. However, Sky Blue would almost get on the score sheet first, as striker Carli Lloyd hit a levitating header, beating goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. The ball bounced off the top of goal post, saving the Spirit early.
Washington responded when striker Mallory Pugh sent in a cross to an open Cheyna Matthews, who tapped the ball past a diving Kailen Sheridan, allowing midfielder Jordan DiBiasi to poke the ball into the net. However, the goal was nullified for an offside call.
The Spirit continued their offensive pressure throughout the first half, as they held onto 62 percent of the possession, connecting 85 percent of their passes. After halftime, Washington almost scored in a three-shot scramble, which was ultimately blocked twice by the defense and a save by Sheridan.
The home side would finally break through in the 59th minute as a punched-out corner kick left the ball pinging around the penalty area before defender Samantha Staab fired a quick left-footed shot for the opening goal.
Washington’s defense kept Lloyd at bay for the majority of the match until the 73rd minute, where she once again fired a corner kick header toward the goal net. Bledsoe slapped the ball away over the goal to preserve her clean sheet.
As the game drew to a close, Pugh sent in one more cross in Sky Blue territory, finding substitute forward Megan Crosson for a thunderous header to seal the game for the Spirit.
With the win, Washington earned its first victory in 325 days, dating back to May 23, 2018. They will look to continue their new winning mentality on April 20 on the road versus the Utah Royals.