Ocampo recorded another two goals on Saturday night in Chicago (Photo by Howard C. Smith).
Sky Blue FC and Chicago Red Stars Fight to Level Result
Sky Blue FC (10-6-5, 35 points) saw two goals come off the foot of Mexican striker Monica Ocampo on Saturday night at Benedictine Stadium, but Jackie Santacaterina answered with two of her own for the Chicago Red Stars (7-8-6, 27 points), ending in an eventual 3-3 draw. With the result and combined with other action tonight in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), playoff-bound Sky Blue FC remains in an even three-way race for the second spot on the league table as the NWSL prepares for its final weekend of the 2013 regular season.
“It was a very emotional match,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra confirmed. “Everything was up-and-down there at the end where one minute, we thought we had the three points, but then we saw a goal given up. We fought and fought tonight, just as we have done all season. We are making progress and getting better as a team, but it was pretty tough to know we did not get out of here with the win.”
The Red Stars were on the attack early in this match, with Mexican striker Maribel Dominguez earning a pair of 1v1 situations with Sky Blue FC netminder Jill Loyden. While both scenarios ended in shots off the mark, an 8th minute corner kick resulted after the second opportunity. Once that set piece was put into play, the ball was collected by Santacaterina on the right side of the penalty area, and she one-touched a pass to the feet of Dominguez. Without hesitation, Dominiguez stepped onto the feed and fired a right-footed strike that hit the back of the net, giving the host side a 1-0 advantage.
Sky Blue FC wasted little time to retaliate, equalizing the tally just seven minutes later after midfielder Katy Freels raced down the right flank with the ball at her feet. She then briefly paused long enough to look up and find Ocampo creating some space of her own on the opposite side of the 18-yard box, quickly chipping distribution her way. The Mexican playmaker was in great position for the delivery and immediately set her feet well enough to hammer a right-footed shot that made the count even at one apiece.
In the 35th minute of this match, Sky Blue FC gained its first lead of the evening on a scoring play that began on top of the 18-yard box by midfielder Taylor Lyle, who booted a ball in front of defender Kendall Johnson on the left side of the area. Johnson then struck a cross with her lead foot back to the front of the frame, and there awaiting the feed was Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt. While she had to battle to put a touch on the ball, Schmidt was able to gain advantage over her defender and volley a go-ahead tally into the back netting, and the count was 2-1 in favor of the visitors.
Play was much more contained once the second half got underway, and a battle for possession ensued in the midfield. However, it was Chicago that would break the flow of the match when it earned a corner kick in the 78th minute. After the ball was dealt to the center of the penalty area, Santacaterina fought for position and was able to put a head on the service, and the well-struck attempt found its way into the back of the net for an equalizing goal. With just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation, this contest saw itself level at two notches each.
The final minutes of this match were quite dramatic, with Sky Blue FC briefly reclaiming the lead only to see a gritty Red Stars side quickly respond. In the 88th minute, the visiting side put itself back on top when a well delivered feed was sent ahead to Ocampo, who once again struck a great volley into the back netting to make it 3-2 for her team. Before Sky Blue FC was able to settle back down, Chicago answered once again when this pairing was on the verge of entering stoppage time. In the 90th minute of play, a ball was crossed into the area to the benefit of Santacaterina, who was able to head home the distribution for her second goal of the night.
With a 3-3 count on the scoreboard, it was signaled that two minutes of stoppage time would be added, but the final whistle soon blew before that tally was altered. With 90 minutes in the books, it was an even 3-3 result.
Sky Blue FC now has just one game remaining on its 2013 regular season schedule, heading to DC for a road match opposite the Washington Spirit next weekend on Sunday. The match still bears critical implications in terms of postseason positioning as Sky Blue FC hopes to earn the ever-important three points.