Midfielder Heather O'Reilly battles to maintain possession (Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
79th Minute Equalizer Leads to 1-1 Draw
Somerset, N.J. (Wednesday, August 11, 2010) – Sky Blue FC (6-8-4, 22 points) came out with a furious effort tonight in a crucial home meeting with the Washington Freedom (5-8-6, 21 points), but it would take a late rally to end the night with a 1-1 draw. A 79th minute own goal in favor of the host side provided the equalizer, with the tally being created by an inspired effort by Sky Blue FC on the offensive end.
“Tonight, we did a pretty nice job of the reading the ball and anticipating the flow of action,” Sky Blue FC head coach Rick Stainton remarked. “We played cohesively for the most part, and it was great to see the team play with such an uplifting demeanor when we needed to get an equalizing goal. We continue to grow and move forward with each passing game, and that is something we look to keep building upon.”
Playing in specialty-made pink PUMA jerseys in support of a league-wide Project Pink initiative, which benefited Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Sky Blue FC came out in this match with an immediate intensity. The team was pressing forward in its offensive approach, and a golden opportunity came in the 11th minute. Defender Meg Schnur struck a ball forward, where striker Heather O’Reilly was there to receive the distribution. The East Brunswick native fired a shot towards the Freedom goal, but Washington netminder Ashlyn Harris was there to turn away the attempt. Finnish international Laura Kalmari was there to catch the rebound, but her shot was deflected away by the defense of the Freedom.
The next close call came in the 27th minute after a ball was fed forward to striker Kacey White, who made a couple of crafty moves before tapping it over to Kalmari. Without delay, Kalmari fired off a rope towards the goal, and the attempt pounded off the near post. Just two minutes later, Schnur nearly got the go-ahead tally when she one-touched a powerful shot from 30 yards out, but the ball was just high of the target.
Sky Blue FC then finished out the half with the same high level of intensity, but Washington was able to do just enough to keep it scoreless when the two sides broke for intermission.
The Freedom seemed to come out of the locker rooms in the second half with a newfound purpose, and the 65th minute saw their efforts rewarded. Midfielder Sarah Huffman spun on a ball on the right wing and turned her momentum upfield. As she looked up, Huffman saw a lane in the middle of the Sky Blue FC box and struck a through ball to the left flank. There awaiting the feed was fellow midfielder Sonia Bompastor, and she one-touched a perfectly placed ball past goalkeeper Jenni Branam.
Facing a 1-0 deficit, Sky Blue FC then upped the tempo in search of an equalizing chance. When the 79th minute came around, fate would be on the home team's side. O'Reilly played a ball from deep to Tasha Kai, who had just checked into the match, and it then bounced towards Kalmari. With a defender leaning on her, Kalmari attempted to get a shot on goal. Before she was able to do so, an immediate clearing attempt made by Washington defender Cat Whitehill misdirected past Harris and into the net. With just 10 minutes to play in the game, the two sides were now on even terms.
With the time short on the action, Sky Blue FC gave a hurried effort in an attempt to pick up the three points and the victory. The host team did create a few chances, but Harris and the Freedom back line were able to match the intensity to hold on for the 1-1 draw.
“It’s definitely coming together, and we’re feeling more comfortable and confident in the back,” Schnur said after the game. “I don’t think they got as many scoring opportunities as they would’ve liked, or have gotten in the past. A particularly great effort was given tonight by Keeley (Dowling) on defending Abby Wambach, who is a world class player.”
Sky Blue FC now hits the road for a Sunday pairing with the Boston Breakers, and the team will return to Yurcak Field on Sunday, August 22nd, to play its regional rival, the Philadelphia Independence. Tickets for that game are on sale now by calling 1-888-SBFC-TIX.