Goalkeeper Jenni Branam played her last professional match on Sunday (Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
Sky Blue FC Sees its Season Come to an End after Suffering 2-0 Defeat
Coming into a Sunday pairing with the host Boston Breakers (5-9-4, 19 points), Sky Blue FC (5-9-4, 19 points) needed a win or tie to advance to the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) Playoffs, but it was not meant to be. With Breakers forward Lauren Cheney providing a pair of goals for her team, including one notch just 14 seconds into the game, Boston saw itself advance to the postseason by claiming the head-to-head goal differential over Sky Blue FC, which was the deciding tiebreaker.
“Obviously, it is a setback when you go into a game where you need to prevent the other team from scoring, and you give up a goal in the first minute,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra remarked. “Then they got a decent bounce, and we found ourselves down 2-0 and having to chase the game.”
Immediately after the opening kickoff, Boston midfielder Keelin Winters found herself in possession as she approached the Sky Blue FC 18-yard box. She then placed a cross into the center of the box, and there awaiting the feed was Cheney, who one-timed a volley past goalkeeper Jenni Branam to give the hosts an early 1-0 advantage in the first minute of action.
In the 18th minute of this contest, the home side would strike for a second time, and it would once again be Cheney doing the damage. On the scoring play, Breakers midfielder Meghan Klingenberg saw an opening on the right flank and sent a cross towards the penalty area. As the ball began to reach its destination, Cheney was able to quickly gather possession and put just enough of a touch on the ball to direct it into the back of the net. With just 18 minutes off the clock, Sky Blue FC found itself facing a two-score deficit.
In an effort to counter that disadvantage, Gabarra opted to go with a more offensive attack in the 35th minute. After making her WPS debut by starting this match, Dutch National Team defender Petra Hogewoning was taken off the field in place of striker Casey Nogueira, and the team made a switch to three players on the back line. The move did seem to begin a spark on the offensive end for Sky Blue FC, but the tally would remain 2-0 in favor of Boston when the first half action concluded.
In the second half, Gabarra took that aggressive strategy a step further by bringing Adriana onto the pitch for defender Danielle Johnson in the 62nd minute. With the new setup, Kendall Fletcher and Brittany Taylor would look to hold down the back line, and Tobin Heath was tracking back from the midfield.
While the approach did provide more offensive production for the visiting club, it would not bring the tally any closer. After 90 minutes had concluded, the Breakers still held a 2-0 lead, which would be enough to punch its ticket into the postseason. Unfortunately for Sky Blue FC, the result would bring the 2011 season to a close.
“Defensively, we had our troubles in the first half, which can be expected when players have to play out of position, and you’re missing your two starting center backs,” Gabarra stated. “We made some adjustments and had our chances, but we couldn’t find the goals we needed.”
The WPS Playoffs will now officially kick off on Wednesday night with magicJack hosting Boston in Boca Raton, Florida. The semifinal round will then take place next Saturday, with the WPS Championship occurring the following Saturday.