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Kumi Yokoyama strike hands Washington Spirit 1-0 win over Sky Blue FC

The Spirit wrapped the Fall Series up with a win on the road

2020 NWSL Challenge Cup - Quarterfinals

A Kumi Yokoyama golazo handed the Washington Spirit a 1-0 win at Sky Blue FC today in the NWSL Fall Series. The Spirit controlled the match from the start, but needed a pinpoint strike from outside the box from Yokoyama early in the second half to avenge a 2-1 defeat in the last meeting between the two clubs.

Richie Burke was able to bring Ashley Hatch and Crystal Thomas back into his starting lineup after injuries had restricted them last week, and they were involved very quickly as the Spirit dominated the early exchanges. By the 6th minute, Hatch had forced a save out of Kailen Sheridan, while Thomas blazed a shot over the bar after a missed interception from Sabrina Flores.

The pattern continued, with virtually nothing for Aubrey Bledsoe to do, but Sky Blue were able to find their footing as the first half wore on. Save for a collision at the edge of the box between Thomas and Midge Purce that drew a shout from the Spirit bench for a penalty kick, Washington couldn’t turn their control of possession into a ton of chances. The best of them came via an extensive build-up just before the end of the first half. While the attack saw nearly every Spirit player complete at least one pass, it ended with Bayley Feist’s eventual shot being blocked by former Washington captain Estelle Johnson.

The Spirit continued to be the aggressor, and in the 50th minute finally got themselves in front. A spell of high pressure saw Washington win two different second balls after blocked shots to keep the play alive, and when Feist’s sliding shot caromed off of Mandy Freeman, it bounced out to Kumi Yokoyama. Cleverly shifting her feet, Yokoyama escaped Jennifer Cudjoe before lining up a wonderful shot from 22 yards, beating Sheridan and kissing the post on its way into the back of the net. The goal is a first in NWSL for the Japanese international, who came close numerous times during the Challenge Cup.

Yokoyama fired another long-range effort just over the bar a few minutes later, and after Burke brought Jessie Scarpa and Katie McClure in for Hatch and Thomas, the opportunities continued. McClure narrowly missed with virtually her first touch in the 65th minute, but from there Washington looked to shore things up at the back.

That choice proved sage, as Sky Blue’s push for an equalizer generated little genuine danger. Paige Monaghan’s solo run in the 83rd minute was arguably their best chance of the game, but a last-second block from Paige Nielsen snuffed out any danger of the shot going in.

While this concludes the Fall Series for Washington, they do have two more announced games to play before ending their 2020 season. Next week, they’ll head south to face the North Carolina Courage in a closed-door friendly that will exist outside the Fall Series structure.

Box Score

NWSL Fall Series - Game 4
Sky Blue FC 0
Washington Spirit 1 (Yokoyama 50)

NJ (4231): Kailen Sheridan; Sabrina Flores, Estelle Johnson, Mandy Freeman (Erica Skroski 62), Imani Dorsey; Sarah Woldmoe (C), Domi Richardson (Nicole Baxter 62); Midge Purce, Jennifer Cudjoe, Paige Monaghan; Ifeoma Onumonu

Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe (C); Jenna Hellstrom (Brooke Hendrix 87), Paige Nielsen, Sam Staab, Dorian Bailey; Bayley Feist, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Ashley Sanchez; Kumi Yokoyama (Natalie Jacobs 73), Ashley Hatch (Jessie Scarpa 59), Crystal Thomas (Katie McClure 59)

NJ - Richardson 56, Cudjoe 82
Spirit - Hellstrom 54, Dougherty Howard 90