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Hatch’s second half goal leads Washington Spirit over Sky Blue

The goal marks Hatch’s fourth of the season.

NJ - JULY 07: Sky Blue FC midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) during the second half of the National Womens Soccer League game between the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC on July 7, 2018 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
In this 2018 file photo, USWNT veteran Carli Lloyd dribbles forward against the Chicago Red Stars. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Though Sky Blue FC enjoyed its first sellout crowd in four years, it was the Washington Spirit that walked away winners courtesy of an Ashley Hatch goal in the second half.

Hatch won the ball near the penalty area, and outpaced a Sky Blue defender before finishing near the penalty spot in the 54th minute. The goal, which was unassisted, is Hatch’s fourth of the season. It sealed the 1-0 victory for the visiting Spirit on Wednesday.

I feel like you kind of see moments, changing moments and I think Hatch is like a great example of that,” Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle said post-match. “I think she did a really good job of occupying the centre backs and giving the midfield and other players room to run and then try to fall in behind and and I think she had her moment and she capitalized and it was awesome.”

The Spirit had been pressing for a goal since the early stages of the match. Continuing what has been an impressive rebound after an eighth place finish in 2018, the Spirit sent a flurry of chances toward the Sky Blue goal throughout the entirety of the match. The team was forcing Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan into making save after save, consistently getting close to goal. Notably, a Mallory Pugh solo effort in the 34th minute ended up just wide of the net.

Though the visitors dominated, Sky Blue managed a few opportunities of their own in the first half. Carli Lloyd, in her first match back since helping the U.S. win the Women’s World Cup, sent a ball towards Raquel Rodriguez out wide in the 14th minute that ended with the Costa Rican’s shot flying over the bar.

The rhythm of the first half was maintained in the second, with the Spirit eventually finding their breakthrough. It disrupted what was a positive start to the second half for Sky Blue goalkeeper coach Hugo Macedo.

“Second half, we’re looking to start right away from the get go,” he said. “We couldn’t find our chances and an unfortunate ball that was played behind our back line.”

As has been the case on multiple occasions this season, Sky Blue seemed to respond strongly to going down. Managing meaningful possession and chances outside of counterattacks, which was mostly the case in the first half, the team did threaten the goal occasionally.

The hosts’ efforts, though, were not enough. Though they limited the Spirit to six shots compared to the first half’s 12, they managed just the one in the second 45 minutes of play.

I think we need to work on possessing the ball a little bit more,” Sky Blue defender Estelle Johnson said, “and just making big plays in big moments.”

Off the field, Sky Blue enjoyed a successful match, hosting its first sellout match since 2015. The official announced attendance of 5,003 beat the season’s previous high of 1,842 at Yurcak Field significantly.

The result leaves Sky Blue bottom of the NWSL table with only eight points. The Spirit, meanwhile, climb into third, a point behind second place North Caroline Courage and a point ahead of fourth spot’s Chicago Red Stars.

Sky Blue next face the Houston Dash on Sunday.

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