Sky Blue tops Spirit 2-1 as NWSL returns to local markets

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — Midge Purce scored in stoppage time to give Sky Blue a 2-1 victory over the Washington Spirit on Saturday in the opening game of the National Women’s Soccer League fall series.

The fall series marks the NWSL’s return to local markets after the league became the first U.S. professional team sport to play amid the coronavirus pandemic with its Challenge Cup tournament in June and July.

The game at Segra Field was played without fans in attendance. The league’s nine teams are separated into three regional groups for the fall series to cut down on travel.

Sky Blue took the lead when Ifeoma Onumonu scored from the right side of the box in the 18th minute. The Spirit drew even in the 89th minute on Paige Nielsen’s penalty kick.

Mallory Pugh had a good chance for Sky Blue on a breakaway in stoppage time, but her shot hit the post. Moments later, Purce broke through with the game-winner.

Pugh made her debut for Sky Blue when she subbed into the game in the 61st minute. Pugh, who also missed the Challenge Cup because of injury, was traded from the Spirit to Sky Blue in January.

Sky Blue was without Carli Lloyd because of a left knee injury that also kept her out of the Challenge Cup. Midfielder McCall Zerboni will miss the fall series after tearing her left meniscus in the tournament.

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