Midfielder Taylor Lytle provided the equalizer for Sky Blue FC (Photo by Howard C. Smith).
Sky Blue FC Set to Face Western New York Flash in Semis after 1-1 Draw in Washington
Sky Blue FC (10-6-6, 36 points) concluded its 2013 regular season schedule on Sunday night, using an 83rd minute equalizer from midfielder Taylor Lytle to earn a 1-1 draw with the Washington Spirit (3-14-5, 14 points) at the Maryland SoccerPlex. With the result, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Playoffs are now set, where Sky Blue FC will travel to the regular season champion Western New York Flash (10-4-8, 38 points), and FC Kansas City (11-6-5, 38 points) will be hosting Portland Thorns FC (11-6-5, 38 points) in the second league semifinal match-up. Both games will be played next Saturday, August 24th, with the NWSL officially announcing kickoff times on Monday.
“Today, we just lacked the energy to create enough chances in the second half,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra stated. “Washington played a very disciplined game, packing it in on the defensive end very well. We have had success against them this season, but it is always hard to beat a team four times in one season. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, because we are now going to Western New York next week and have lost three in a row to them.”
After a slightly calm start to the action in this encounter tonight, Sky Blue FC began moving the ball well through the midfield and created some offensive sparks. The visiting side found its best success when dealing from the flanks, with midfielder Manya Makoski sending some well-placed distribution from outside the right portion of the penalty area. Forward Danesha Adams was back in the starting lineup for this contest, and she also dealt some dangerous corner kicks that Sky Blue FC was able to knock around in front of the frame. However, the Spirit defense was doing a nice job in recovery and presenting difficulty for Sky Blue FC in its attempt to find open looks on the goal.
In the 40th minute of this pairing, the stalemate was finally broken. The scoring play started off the foot of Washington defender Ali Krieger, who served Teresa Worbis from the right side of the penalty area. The Mexican midfielder then looked up and found a wide open Stephanie Ochs in the center of the box, rolling a ball in her direction that the striker hammered with her left foot into the far side netting.
Sky Blue FC was delivered another scare just three minutes later following a free kick that was sent to the far post by Spirit midfielder Tori Huster. The ball was put right on the targeted Conny Pohlers, who headed a hard shot that required a diving save from Sky Blue FC netminder Brittany Cameron.
The second session of this contest was a battle for possession in the midfield, with both defenses stepping up to the task at hand. After nearly 40 minutes of scoreless soccer, Sky Blue FC broke through and was able to equalize the tally. In the 83th minute, Mexican striker Monica Ocampo stepped over a corner kick on the left flag, serving a nicely struck ball just in front of the frame. After taking a couple of dangerous bounces, Lytle was able to collect it and quickly fire the tying notch into the back netting. With seven minutes left in regulation, this match was knotted up at a goal each.
Sky Blue continued to surge forward in an attempt to pull out the victory in this contest, but the final whistle would blow before any more damage could be done. At the conclusion of the game, a 1-1 scoreline remained, and all focus became shifted towards the postseason.
“We are going to take a close look at this postseason match and develop our game plan in the next day or two,” Gabarra confirmed. “The biggest thing for us is that we had three of our four worst performances of the season against the Flash. Being a playoff game, I expect us to show up with the proper energy, focus and intensity level that will be needed to beat a very good team.”
Make sure to stay tuned to SkyBlueFC.com this week for all of the latest information and developments as Sky Blue FC prepares for the inaugural NWSL Playoffs!