Averbuch's 60th minute goal gave Sky Blue FC a lot to celebrate (Photo by Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
Sky Blue FC Holds off Philadelphia for Home Victory, 1-0
Piscataway, N.J. (Sunday, August 22, 2010) – The circumstances could not have been any greater for Sky Blue FC (7-9-4, 25 points) tonight as it hosted the Philadelphia Independence (10-7-4, 34 points) at Yurcak Field in Piscataway. In the midst of heated battle for entrance into the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) Playoffs, Sky Blue FC was able to pull even with the Washington Freedom (6-8-7, 25 points) on the table after midfielder Yael Averbuch rifled home a game-winning goal in the 60th minute, securing a tight 1-0 victory for her team.
“I am very proud of the performance that our team gave tonight,” Sky Blue FC head coach Rick Stainton said. “We were able to apply all of the components that we have been developing at training into the game, particularly our ability to maintain possession and build our attack in numbers.”
The win tonight snapped a three-match winless streak against the Independence, and that is something that Stainton feels could give Sky Blue FC some momentum as it heads into the home stretch of the regular season.
“We proved to ourselves tonight that we can capitalize on teams regardless of who they are,” he stated. “Philadelphia is a very good team in this league, and we had yet to have any success against them until tonight. To be able to correct our mistakes and accomplish that at this point in the season should be a nice building block for us as we fight for a playoff berth.”
Stainton shook up the lineup just a bit in preparation for today’s match. Defender Brittany Taylor, who had been recently starting in the midfield, returned to the back line in place of defender Daphne Koster, who was on national team duty (Netherlands). Also, Kendall Fletcher started at the left back spot with Meghan Schnur moving up to the midfield. Captain Christie Rampone and Keeley Dowling rounded out the back line, starting in their normal center back position. On the midfield flanks were Heather O’Reilly and Kacey White, with Averbuch and Rosana pressing forward behind Finnish international Laura Kalmari. Playing in goal for Sky Blue FC was Jenni Branam, who recorded the shutout.
In the 15th minute of the match, Sky Blue FC had to make its first substitution after a cut to the leg of Kalmari forced her to come off the pitch. While fighting for possession, an accidental cleating occurred to her shin, and Stainton quickly opted for Tasha Kai at the striker position. Kai and Sky Blue FC would not get much of a chance to create after the substitution, as a weather delay put the game on hold just a minute later. The action did not resume until 6:13 p.m. EST, a 112-minute delay.
After the game clock was finally back running, Sky Blue FC looked to use an upbeat tempo to create some chances for itself. While no significantly dangerous opportunities arose, the host side looked to grab the lion’s share of the momentum. When the next whistle blew to signal halftime, a rather inspired Sky Blue FC team took it to the locker rooms.
Sky Blue FC stayed with the same aggressive demeanor as the second half got underway, and a world class goal was the result in the 60th minute. O’Reilly rushed onto a loose ball at the right corner of the Philadelphia box and then found just a step of space in front of her. She immediately chipped the ball to her left where Averbuch was awaiting the distribution. Without hesitation, Averbuch one-touched a missile of a volley into the left upper 90 of the netting, and the host side had the first advantage of the match, 1-0.
“I kind of tried to hang out on the left flank a little because Kacey and Rosana had sucked a lot of players across,” Averbuch said of the goal. “Then Heather was able to send the ball over the top of the defense, and I said ‘You know what? I’m going to go for it.’ It’s one of those you hit, and it either goes upper corner or into the stands. Luckily, I was able to connect with it well.”
The home team was obviously revamped from that go-ahead tally, and its energy on the pitch matched that momentum. While the team looked to press its advances forward, the defensive back line did a nice job of supporting their teammates in front of them. Also playing a pivotal role in the Sky Blue FC’s success in the back was Branam, who sacrificed her body without hesitation and maintained a commanding presence for her team. After holding off a valiant attack from the opposition, Sky Blue FC found itself with a critical three points.
Next up for Sky Blue FC is an absolutely pivotal road pairing with the Washington Freedom on Saturday. With the two teams deadlocked in the standings (Sky Blue FC has a game in hand), the victor in this match would make a huge leap forward to its goal of reaching the postseason. Sky Blue FC next returns home on Wednesday, September 1st, when it welcomes Marta and FC Gold Pride to Yurcak Field. Kickoff for that match is at 7:00 p.m., and tickets are available now by calling 1-888-SBFC-TIX.