Tasha Kai scored the game-winner in the 6th minute (Photo by Howard Smith - ISI Photos).
Tasha Kai Goal in 6th Minute Provides Lone Score in 1-0 Victory
Piscataway, N.J. (Sunday, April 11, 2010) – Defending Women’s Professional Soccer Champions Sky Blue FC (1-0-0) fought through some early season jitters tonight at Yurcak Field to take a tight 1-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars (0-1-0). A goal in the 6th minute from midfielder Heather O’Reilly to forward Tasha Kai proved to be the eventual difference in the result, with Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Karen Bardsley putting forth an impressive start to record the shutout.
“Karen dominated the box and played outstanding tonight,” Sky Blue FC head coach Pauliina Miettinen said of Bardsley. “As a team, expectations are high, and I think that contributed to the fact that we were a little bit nervous out there. We can definitely play, but we have to be a little bit more willing to move along the field and make ourselves available.”
In the early going, it appeared that Sky Blue FC had quickly found its offensive groove. On the 6th minute tally, O’Reilly settled a ball at the top of the box and fed it to a streaking Kai in the center of the field. Kai, who led Sky Blue FC by registering six goals in 2009, needed just one touch to find an opening and struck the ball past Chicago goalkeeper Jillian Loyden to make it 1-0.
“Nerves got the best of us today, but we fought through it as a team,” Kai stated after the match. “We played with a lot of heart, and we stuck together. In the end, we came out victorious.”
That early notch did calm the nerves of the defending league champions a bit, and the technical focus of the match quickly intensified on both sides. The Red Stars were able to put together some offensive runs immediately after that first tally, but solid play from the Sky Blue FC back line and Bardsley cleared away any danger. The best scoring opportunity for the visiting side came in the 39th minute when former Sky Blue FC midfielder Julianne Sitch put a hard strike on a side volley towards the net. However, the host defense was in proper position to deflect the attempt away for a corner kick. The ensuing play resulted in a punch from Bardsley, who held on to keep the slate clean the rest of the opening half. When the two teams headed to the locker room for intermission, the scoreboard still read 1-0 in favor of the home team.
Sky Blue FC looked to regain control of the momentum at the start of the second half, and the team was able to use its speed in the midfield to spark the attack. At the 64-minute mark, O’Reilly sprinted with the ball down the right flank and once again found Kai in the center of the field. The Hawaii native one-touched the feed, but Chicago was able to do just enough to prevent the ball from finding the back of the net.
Miettinen made her first substitutions of the evening in the latter portion of the second half, first bringing Brazilian playmaker Rosana on for midfielder Yael Averbuch in the 65th minute and then Swedish forward Jessica Landstrom for Kai in the 72nd minute. Landstrom quickly made her presence felt and created a 1v1 opportunity in the 75th minute, where a hard-struck ball was just turned away by Loyden. The final change of the night by Miettinen was made when defender Danielle Johnson came on for Keeley Dowling.
With the closing minutes of the match ticking away, Chicago fought to gain the equalizer, but the Sky Blue FC defense was able to maintain its position. The hosts battled through for a couple of near hits in the final minutes, but Kai’s 6th minute goal prove to be the difference in the game when referee Ted Unkel blew the final whistle.
With the win, Sky Blue FC moves into a three-way tie with the Boston Breakers and Saint Louis Athletica atop the WPS Standings with three points. Next up for the team is Saturday meeting with Marta and FC Gold Pride (0-1-0) in San Francisco at 10:00 p.m. EST. Sky Blue FC returns home to Yurcak Field on Saturday, May 1st, when it hosts FC Gold Pride. As part of the night, fans will have the exclusive opportunity to have their photo taken with Rosana and Marta. For more information on that significantly limited ticket package, call 1-888-SBFC-TIX.