Sky Blue FC fought to a 1-0 victory against the Western New York Flash on Sunday night in its NWSL season opener. It was the only game of the weekend that did not end in a draw.
“It’s a starting point. Win, lose, or draw, it’s a place to start,” Sky Blue FC’s head coach Jim Gabarra stated. “We have some things, tactically, to work on still.”
Certainly, emerging as the only team to earn a win in the inaugural week of the league is a promising start.
While many fans expected, and perhaps hoped to see Kelley O’Hara as a striker, Gabarra played it safe and started O’Hara at her national team position of right back. The back four would have otherwise comprised of Rampone and three rookies; a questionable back line to go head to head, quite literally, with Abby Wambach. The line showed great determination in the first half by keeping the Flash at bay but made some notable slip-ups.
Sensing Cameron well off of her line, Wambach chipped a long ball towards the Sky Blue goal in the 22nd minute, which ended up striking the crossbar. Another moment that had fans on the edges of their seats was a threat in the dying seconds of the match. Wambach nearly tied the game as she attempted to find the back of the net from the top of the box, but was blocked by a diving Cameron and several defenders. The ball was bounced back toward Wambach, and her final touch of the night sent the ball sailing over the crossbar. Wambach seemed quite disappointed after the game and reportedly did not sign autographs.
Probably the most talked about play of the match was a very early 16th minute penalty kick awarded to the Flash. Surprisingly it was Adriana who stepped up to take the kick, rather than Abby Wambach who regularly takes the US National Team’s penalty kicks. The ball was aimed toward the lower left corner and Brittany Cameron was able to read this well, stretching full out to meet Adriana’s shot to the crowd’s tumultuous applause.
The game remained tied for the next 30 minutes until SBFC was awarded a corner kick. In the 42nd minute Sky Blue FC’s Danesha Adams placed a corner kick into the Flash’s six yard box, and confusion ensued, culminating in an unfortunate touch off the back of McCall Zerboni’s foot and into her own net giving Sky Blue FC a 1-0 lead.
The start of the second half was dominated by the Sky Blue squad that entered without any substitutions. Much of the focus in the second half was placed on Wambach as the Flash relied heavily on her to secure an equalizer. Unfortunately, Wambach could not capitalize on any scoring opportunities during the match but that is not due to her abilities but rather the goal saving heroics of Cameron who recorded her first shutout in a regular season match for the NWSL. Cameron blocked a few strikes brought on by Zerboni and Wambach during the second half, but she has a strong center-back to thank for much of her saves as Coco Goodson put up a fight against heavy-weight Wambach.
Sky Blue FC’s striker Lisa DeVanna was visibly frustrated at the lack of service from her midfielders, as many attempts of chipping the ball over the top were intercepted and headed away by Flash defenders. In the second half, DeVanna received two notable opportunities to cushion Sky Blue’s lead as she fired shots on goal. However, both times, Franch was able to make fingertip saves to deny Sky Blue from further goals. Franch outshined both teams including her own as she made countless saves against tenacious striker Lisa De Vanna, and opportunistic right-back Caitlin Foord.
The two teams brought a good deal of energy and battled to a narrow victory. Like the 1-1 ties of the other three league games this weekend, the match is reflective of the high quality of women’s soccer in the NWSL.
The Western New York Flash will travel to Boyds, Maryland to play the Washington Spirit in their first home NWSL game on April 20 2013, 7:00 pm at Maryland Soccerplex Stadium.
Sky Blue FC fans will need to be patient as their next match is not expected until April 27 at 7:00 pm when they face the Washington Spirit in Boyds, Maryland.
The Western New York Flash will have the opportunity for redemption as they are scheduled to meet Sky Blue again on May 1 at Saheln’s Stadium.
Sky Blue – McCall Zerboni OG 42’
Sky Blue – GK Brittany Cameron, Caitlin Foord (RB), Christie Rampone (CB), Coco Goodson (CB), Kelley O’Hara (LB), Kendall Johnson (LM), Brittany Bock (CM), Sophie Schmidt (CM), Katy Freels (RM), Lisa De Vanna (F), Danesha Adams (F).
WNYF – GK Adrianna Franch, Alex Sahlen (D), Estelle Johnson (D), Brittany Taylor (D), Katherine Reynolds (D), Angela Salem (M), McCall Zerboni (M), Samantha Kerr (M), Veronica Perez (F), Abby Wambach (F), Adriana Martin (F).
45th minute – Amy Barczuk replaces Angela Salem
65th minute – Jodi Ann Robinson replaced Samantha Kerr
83rd minute – Laura Heyboer replaces Veronica Perez
60th minute – Manya Makoski replaces Katy Freels
69th minute – Monica Ocampo replaces Danesha Adams
89th minute – Maddie Thompson replaces Kendall Johnson