Sky Blue FC Falls in Final 2011 Home Game

Goalkeeper Jenni Branam announced she would retire after the season (Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
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Western New York Flash Tops Host Club, 4-1

5065 fans packed into Yurcak Field on Saturday night to see their hometown club, Sky Blue FC (5-6-4, 19 points), host the Western New York Flash (9-2-3, 30 points), but a first half offensive burst by the road club would prove to be too much for the hosts to overcome. The lone tally by Sky Blue FC came in the 22nd minute when midfielder Therese Sjogran hooked up Adriana, with the Swedish international collecting her team-leading sixth assist on the notch.

Big news was made prior to the opening whistle at Yurcak Field, as Sky Blue FC netminder Jenni Branam announced that she would be retiring at the conclusion of the season. The team also made it official that her #23 jersey would additionally be retired, making her the only player who would ever wear that number for Sky Blue FC.

The hosts received an early scare in this match, with the Flash creating an opportunity in the first minute of action. After the opening kickoff, Canadian international Christine Sinclair raced down the left flank and was quickly fed the ball. Finding some space in front of her, she then fired a shot that hit the far post and nearly gave the visiting side an early advantage.

In the 22nd minute of this contest, the first goal of the evening was put on the board once Sjogran gained possession after chasing down a ball on the right side of the Western New York 18-yard box. She then checked to her left and found Adriana streaking down the center of the penalty area, quickly sending distribution her way. As soon as the Spanish striker collected the ball, she took one touch and then slid a shot under the outstretched body of Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.

Just seven minutes later, Western New York was able to net the equalizer in this pairing. With the ball at her feet, midfielder McCall Zerboni started a diagonal run towards the Sky Blue FC frame as Branam closed in on the near-side post. However, Zerboni found just enough space and snuck a hard shot past Branam on the post she was protecting.

That notch triggered an offensive explosion for the Flash, as the visiting club saw itself tally three goals in just under nine minutes of play. The second goal for Western New York came in the 35th minute on a play that started off the right foot of midfielder Yael Averbuch. The Upper Montclair, New Jersey, native delivered a pass over to two-time WPS MVP Marta, who quickly settled on the right side of the box before firing a well struck shot past Branam and into the left-side netting. Three minutes later, the Flash made it 3-1 following a free kick by defender Candace Chapman. After the whistle was blown so she could put the ball into play, she found Sinclair, who was able to head home the cross.

That 3-1 count would remain standing when the two sides broke for intermission.

The second half of action did not see the same amount of offensive chances created as it did in the first 45 minutes of this contest. Sky Blue FC fought to find opportunities for itself, while the Flash slowed down its possession since it held a two-goal edge. However, Western New York was able to increase its lead to the final count of 4-1 following a stoppage time goal by second half substitute Alex Morgan. After being delivered a feed from midfielder Beverly Goebel, the U.S. National Team forward ran towards the 18-yard box and caught Branam cheating off her line. With the Sky Blue FC netminder off her post, Morgan chipped a shot over the head of Branam, and the ball curled into the goal. That tally would be the final notch in this contest, hanging a 4-1 count in favor of the visiting Flash.

Sky Blue FC will now hit the road for its next three matches, beginning on Wednesday against magicJack in Boca Raton, Florida. That game has critical implications after tonight, as the three-goal loss by Sky Blue FC was coupled with a 4-0 win by magicJack over the Boston Breakers. Sky Blue FC is now -1 in goal differential while magicjack is -3 with a game in hand. The two teams currently sit in third and fourth place respectively, both holding 19 points on the season, and the eventual third place finisher on the WPS Table will host the fourth place qualifier when the postseason begins. Boston is still heavily in the mix as well with a 4-7-4 record and 16 points.

NOTE: In attendance for tonight’s game was Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2010 in a game against Army. The unbelievably inspirational LeGrand has aggressively undergone rehabilitation since the injury and has regained movement in his shoulders and sensation throughout his entire body.

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