Monica Ocampo once again provided late heroics for Sky Blue FC (Photo by Howard C. Smith).
Sky Blue FC Secures Top Spot in the NWSL Standings with Victory
Sky Blue FC (9-3-3, 30 points) was provided some second half drama off the foot of Mexican striker Monica Ocampo once again on Saturday night, earning a 1-0 victory over the visiting Washington Spirit (1-8-4, 7 points) at Yurcak Field. With the result, Sky Blue FC remains on top of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Standings by four points, while Portland Thorns FC (8-3-2, 26 points) are still playing later on Saturday night against the Boston Breakers (4-5-4, 16 points).
“We expected this to be one of those grind-it-out games,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra remarked. “Our team did exactly what we asked them to do, and we are proud of that.
“The biggest thing was our tempo in terms of passing and moving the ball. We weren’t quick enough in the first half, and we really seemed to do a better job with pace in the second half.”
Battling some humid playing conditions, both teams came out with the intent of working through the middle of the field and creating some space on top of the 18-yard box. The first significant scoring opportunity for either side came in the 22nd minute when Spirit forward Conny Pohlers received distribution on the right flank and raced into a 1v1 situation with Sky Blue FC netminder Brittany Cameron. After turning her momentum into the penalty area, Cameron aggressively came off her post and dove at the feet of Pohlers to prevent any trouble before it was able to occur.
The pace of the match continued to increase as the halftime whistle approached, and each team looked to grab hold of the momentum when the possibility arose. However, both back lines were up to the challenge of the opposing offenses, and a scoreless tally remained when the officials signaled a stoppage for intermission.
In the 61st minute of action, the deadlock was nearly broken on an offensive play that started off the possession of midfielder Taylor Lytle in the center of the pitch, just outside the 18-yard box. Once Lytle found some space, she looked over to her left and saw fellow midfielder Kelley O’Hara making a run into the penalty area. She then dealt the ball right in front of O’Hara, who took a step and then hammered a left-footed strike that just missed the far post.
Seven minutes later, Sky Blue FC had another great chance, following a play that began from distribution on the left wing by midfielder Katy Freels. On the play, the Auburn graduate sent a well-placed feed over the head of the defense and onto the feet of Ocampo. The Mexican striker then fired a shot towards the frame, but the attempt sailed wide.
With a momentum shift moving in the direction of the home side, the efforts of Sky Blue FC on the attack finally paid off in the 74th minute. After receiving a ball in the middle of her own offensive end of the pitch, Freels chipped a ball forward to striker Danesha Adams. Once collecting the feed, Adams struck a shot that ricocheted off the Washington defense. There to capture the rebound was Ocampo, and she immediately hammered a left-footed crack that ripped into the back netting to give Sky Blue FC a 1-0 advantage.
Rather than fall onto its back heels, Sky Blue FC continued press forward on the offensive end after acquiring the go-ahead notch, and that aggressive nature paid off by keeping the Spirit from being able to create any offensive opportunities as the final minutes ticked off the clock. When the final whistle had blown, Sky Blue FC saw itself with a 1-0 victory and a critical three points at home.
“This win is huge,” Adams said after the match. “We have been playing good soccer lately but have not necessarily gotten the results that we wanted. No matter how clean, dirty, ugly or pretty it was today, we the got the result at home. That’s what is important to us.”
Next up for Sky Blue FC is a home contest next Saturday when the team looks to avenge a loss last Sunday night to Boston. Tickets for that game, which kicks off at 7:00 p.m., are available now and can be purchased by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (723-2849).