Sky Blue FC and Freedom Battle to Stalemate

Italian striker Patrizia Panico made her WPS debut tonight (Photo by Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).

Action-Packed Contest Results in a Scoreless Tally

Piscataway, N.J. (Wednesday, July 7, 2010) – Under humid conditions tonight at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, the action on the pitch between Sky Blue FC (5-4-3, 18 points) and the Washington Freedom (4-3-5, 17 points) was at an exceptionally high level for the entire 90 minutes of play. When the final whistle had blown in this match, host goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill had recorded the sixth Sky Blue FC shutout of the season, but her side had to settle for a scoreless draw.

“Kristin was extra confident tonight in net, and her play reflected that,” Sky Blue FC head coach Pauliina Miettinen said of Luckenbill. “As a whole, we truly played together as a team. We had a very solid performance from our defense, and our midfield and forwards did a great job of creating opportunities up top. Unfortunately, the ball just doesn’t drop in your favor sometimes.”

The first opportunity of this game came in the third minute when Washington midfielder Sarah Huffman found a small crease on the right flank. After she saw her opening, Huffman slipped a ball through to forward Lena Mykjaland, who then turned and fired a one-touch shot towards the Sky Blue FC frame. There to make a diving save of the attempt was Luckenbill, and the dangerous situation was resolved.

After that opening scare, Sky Blue FC increased its offensive aggression, which resulted in a handful of nice chances. In the 18th minute, midfielder Heather O’Reilly created a great scoring opportunity for her team when she raced down the left side of the field and crossed a nicely struck ball to right in front of the Washington frame. Rosana sped onto the feed and extended her right leg, but the ball was just out of her reach. The duo again caused havoc in the 30th minute when O’Reilly delivered a brilliant through-ball to Rosana in the center of the pitch, and the Brazilian playmaker was able to strike it past Freedom netminder Erin McLeod. Unfortunately for the host side, the attempt rolled just left of the target.

When all was said and done in the first half, this match was still deadlocked with no score.

Substituting in at the half for Sky Blue FC was Italian National Team captain Patrizia Panico, who was playing in her Women’s Professional Soccer debut. She wasted little time in making an impact on the action, when a nicely fed ball to forward Laura Kalmari just six seconds into the stanza nearly gave the home team a go-ahead tally.

Panico again showed her field vision in the 67th minute when she distributed a feed through the middle of the Washington defense, with Rosana on the receiving end of the pass. She then turned on the ball to one-touch a strong attempt towards the net, but the ball sailed just high of the marker.

Providing a spark for the hometown crowd in the 76th minute was forward Tasha Kai checking in for Sky Blue FC. Her teammates fed off of her energy as well, and the host side continued to create some great chances for itself. The Freedom also fought through for some opportunities of its own, but solid play form Luckenbill and the Sky Blue FC back line keep the score sheet clean.

“It feels great to get the shutout, but it was a result of excellent play from the defense in front of me,” Luckenbill humbly noted after the match. “The effort of our entire defense was very strong tonight, and there was never a situation where an opposing player ran freely into the box. Every time they sent a ball across, we had bodies there to mark them.”

On the night, Luckenbill faced 16 shots from the Washington attack, and she finished the game with five saves. Sky Blue FC also held the shot advantage in this pairing by taking 19 attempts toward the Freedom goal.

Next up for Sky Blue FC is a quick road match-up against the Chicago Red Stars this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The team returns home to Yurcak Field on Sunday, July 18th, when it hosts Hope Solo and the Atlanta Beat at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for that game are available now by calling 1-888-SBFC-TIX.

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