Mexican striker Monica Ocampo supplied the game-winner in the 58th minute (Photo by Howard C. Smith).
Sky Blue FC Picks Up Critical Three Points in 2013 Home Finale
Sky Blue FC (10-6-4, 34 points) used a second half goal by forward Monica Ocampo to lift itself over the Washington Spirit (1-14-4, 7 points) at Yurcak Field on Saturday night, earning a critical three points with two games remaining on its 2013 regular season schedule. With the win, Sky Blue FC is now knotted up with Portland Thorns FC (10-4-4, 34 points) in second place on the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Table and just a single point behind league-leading FC Kansas City (10-4-5, 35 points).
“We were dealing with a rather difficult situation tonight, needing a win against a team that has been playing much more improved recently,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra remarked. “We were battling some fatigue due from having three games in seven days with a trip to Portland in the middle. Overall, we had a little bit of a hard time getting it going in the first half, but I thought we played really well in the second half. We were more balanced and moved the ball around well on the flanks. The midfield played really well, and our back line was also very strong. In the end, we got the three points, and that is what is most important.”
Dealing with a recent rash of injuries, Gabarra looked to mix things up a bit at the top of the formation, with midfielder Brittany Bock starting the match on top of the offense. Sky Blue FC continued to interchange the players on the attack, and Ocampo regularly found herself on the receiving end of nicely served feeds off the foot of midfielder Katy Freels. However, Washington netminder Chantel Jones was able to hold down her post between the pipes, preventing any damage from occurring by the home side throughout the course of the opening session.
In the 51th minute of this game, Sky Blue FC nearly broke the deadlock when midfielder Sophie Schmidt stepped over a free kick just outside the penalty area and dealt a ball to the front of the frame. There awaiting the distribution was Ocampo, who collected and put a shot on frame that Jones deflected before the defense was able to clear it. The hosts stayed on the attack over the next few minutes, with midfielder Taylor Lytle and Freels firing hard shots that were just off the mark.
The aggression on offense finally paid off for Sky Blue FC in the 58th minute when a well-orchestrated play was run down the right flank. Freels first entered the penalty area with the ball at her feet before dealing Schmidt to her right. The Canadian National Teamer then chipped the ball just ahead of Ocampo, who quickly struck the feed into the back of the net for the go-ahead notch.
Sky Blue FC continued to apply pressure on the offensive end and move the ball well through the midfield, and New Jersey native Jill Loyden did a nice job of keeping the slate clean from her goalkeeper position. While it required a hard-fought effort for 90 minutes, Sky Blue FC eventually emerged with the 1-0 victory and a critical three points.
Sky Blue FC now hits the road for its final two matches of the 2013 regular season, beginning next Saturday night against the Chicago Red Stars and then closing out the schedule the following Sunday against the Spirit.