Washington Spirit vs Sky Blue FC preview: Two teams gasping for air face off
Sky Blue FC vs Washington Spirit preview: Two teams gasping for air face off

The two worst teams in the National Women's Soccer League will face off on Wednesday night in Boyds, MD when Sky Blue FC (0W-1D-5L) faces off against the Washington Spirit (1W-2D-5L). Both teams are coming off of Saturday losses. Sky Blue was defeated 2-1 at home by the first-place North Carolina Courage, while Washington lost 1-0 to the Portland Thorns FC at home. Both teams will be desperate for a win as the season slowly slips away from these two struggling teams.

A lot of change with few results

Sky Blue FC and the Washington Spirit each made significant changes to their rosters during the offseason, but neither team has much to show for it.

Sky Blue is truly flailing behind new head coach Denise Reddy. During the 2018 NWSL College Draft, Sky Blue FC traded international forward Sam Kerr to the Chicago Red Stars and received midfielder Carli Lloyd from the Houston Dash in return. Lloyd, who is from New Jersey, was expected to solidify the midfield, provide a strong attacking presence and drive crowds to Yurcak Field, but she has been unable to accomplish any of those goals. While her technical ability is there, it doesn't seem like the team has found much chemistry with her anchoring the midfield. Rookie Savannah McCaskill has been mostly impressive, but she is only making the occasional impact. SBFC is allowing a league-worst 2.0 goals per game and is scoring just 0.83 goals per game, so there are issues on both sides of the ball.

Mallory Pugh joined Washington during the 2017 season and has started 2018 strong. | Photo: Washingtonspirit.com from isiphotos
Mallory Pugh joined Washington during the 2017 season and has started 2018 strong. | Photo: Washingtonspirit.com from isiphotos

Washington completely dismantled their roster after the 2016 season and spent 2017 at the bottom of the league. It was widely expected that the Spirit would turn things around as they added first-overall selection Andi Sullivan, third-overall selection Rebecca Quinn, goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, and Rose Lavelle, the first pick of the Boston Breakers Dispersal Draft. The Spirit also brought in defender Taylor Smith and forward Ashley Hatch from the Courage in return for the rights to Crystal Dunn. Unfortunately, the team hasn't quite jelled yet. The rookies are struggling to acclimate to the NWSL, the defense is not protecting Bledsoe, who leads the league in saves, and the team hasn't come together yet as a unit.

The midweek match to turn things around

Both teams will go into Wednesday hoping that this match can be the catalyst for a mid-season revival. Sky Blue FC has been opting for a possession-based attack, while Washingon is more apt to push the ball forward to bypass the midfield and get the ball directly to Mallory Pugh, Francisca Ordega, and Hatch on the attack. It's hard to say exactly how the game will go since both teams are allowing over one goal per game against and scoring less than one goal per game. They have players with the ability to control the ball and make plays, but there are too many mental errors that get in the way of prolonged pressure.

My intuition is that the offenses will outperform the respective defenses and this will be a relatively high scoring match. Lloyd and McCaskill found a higher gear during the second half of the match last weekend against the Courage. Sky Blue seems to be improving slowly as the season progresses. Washington, on the other hand, had their best match of the season at home against an Orlando Pride team that was missing five players to injury and international duty. Washington is riding a six-match winless streak that is matched by the six-game streak that Sky Blue is currently riding. Playing at home will definitely play into Washington's hands and should give them a slight advantage.

Despite the fact that both teams played on Saturday they are surprisingly healthy. No new players are out for the game on Wednesday, so the two squads will try to build their chemistry. Most notably, Rose Lavelle is no longer on the injury report for Washington. It is currently unknown whether she will be available for the upcoming match, but if she is available she would play at most a short stint.

The match will be broadcast on go90.com and the go90 app at 7:30 pm ET.