The game was all Sky Blue and they deserved their 1-2 win as some of their players broke through their shells (Coco Goodson and Katy Freels), while the star players (Kelley O'Hara, Lisa DeVanna and Caitlin Foord) maintained their reputation as a talented group of individuals. However the one player who should give themselves a pat on the back is Sophie Schmidt for not only notching the game winning goal, but also pulling off an incredible second half block that prevented the Spirit from getting back into the game. Sky Blue FC has now won two consecutive matches at the start of their NWSL campaign.
The first half began with Sky Blue invading the Spirit half, gaining a corner kick inside the first two minutes. The Spirit couldn't find the space or time to adjust to gain their identity, let alone deal with the presence of the SBFC encroaching upon their field when Danesha Adams sent up a wonderful cross that found Coco Goodson, who headed the ball into the back of the net. It was a great start for Sky Blue FC who would continue to dominate the first half with ease.
Throughout the match Stephanie Ochs was on point and her persistence was a definite threat. She found runs down the center and up the field flank to get behind midfielders and send up crosses to Tiffany McCarty. In the early portion of the first half Ochs had a wonderful strike on target that curled into GK Brittany Cameron's hands. Ochs did not settle down as in a few minutes later she was back in the action with another strike that was met by Cameron.
Sky Blue has likely undergone some vigorous training as their back-line was impenetrable. Goodson did superbly during corner kicks, and captain Christie Rampone kept a cool head which allowed her to foresee many oncoming attacks. Her influence was especially decisive when a scramble occurred in the box in the second half. Rampone kept her head down and cleared the ball.
Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris should be furious with her back line as they failed to push the three Sky Blue forwards out of the box on several occasions. O'Hara would find openings to send crosses into the box for Danesha Adams who was sitting idly by, while Lisa De Vanna would have thrilling runs up the wings to get on the edge of the 18 yard box and ship a strike on target.
Throughout both halves O'Hara was fast paced, opportunistic and creative and a threat from any distance. The Spirit took note of this and began shutting her down early on with at least two defenders on her tail at all times but O'Hara's creativity came in handy when she out maneuvered several defenders as she charged up the center of the field in the latter second half in order to get a cross into De Vanna.
De Vanna made it a habit to send low leveled strikes at Harris, who caught them with ease. In the first half, De Vanna had a golden opportunity to increase the SBFC lead when she found Harris slightly off her line with no defenders to block her but the shot sailed wide of the post.
For the Spirit they need to thank late substitute Caroline Miller for igniting the fire under their bellies. Miller was creative on her pursuits as she found a major weakness in the Sky Blue camp. She would manipulate corner kick opportunities for the Spirit, repeatedly charging up the flank only to stop short of the line to kick a ball off a SBFC defender's legs to earn a corner.
The Spirit found their equaliser in the 35th minute from a run by Ochs who linked up with Lindsey who sent a low cross into the box to find a sliding Matheson who sent it into the net. This inspired a short lived confidence in the Spirit as their captain Lindsey began pressing the middle of the pitch and offset counter attacks searching from Matheson and Ochs.
The Spirit threatened to steal the lead until an off-side call on McCarty was found as she was ahead of the SBFC defenders and in a one on one with Cameron. McCarty also threatened the tie when she found herself in a 1v4 situation on the edge of the box, but Sophie Schmidt was there to save the day and clear the danger.
Sky Blue got their lead back in the 48th minute when De Vanna was covered by Toulouse and Robyn Gayle. In an attempt to keep the play alive she cut the ball back to Schmidt who sent a low strike into the lower left hand corner of the net.
A brief moment of concern came over the Sky Blue camp as their defenders let their guards down and allowed Matheson to pounce on an unattended ball outside the box and connect with McCarty. Rampone stepped in to cross her path which resulted in McCarty applying weak pressure on the ball allowing Cameron to scoop it up.
The Spirit picked up their game in the final ten minutes as they pressured Sky Blue, but SBFC defended their territory well to prevent any real threats. In the 85th minute Lindsey struck a powerful 35 yard kick but found itself on top of the net. The Spirit's final ten minutes of play saw several unsuccessful free kicks from the captain. In another attempt Matheson found Miller but Cameron saved the shot but it fell lose in the box and was picked up by Ingrid Wells who tipped it over to Julia Roberts and back to Miller who could not control the pass with her head.
At the end of the date, the late pressure wasn't enough to get the Spirit back into the match. Full credit to SBFC, who did what they needed to to earn the three points.