Sky Blue FC Concludes Season with Draw

Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Meghann Burke registered nine saves tonight (Photo by Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).

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Boston Breakers and Sky Blue FC Play to a 0-0 Tally

Piscataway, N.J. (Saturday, September 11, 2010) – Sky Blue FC (7-10-7, 28 points) knew that it would have to give the greatest of efforts tonight against the Boston Breakers (10-8-6, 36 points) to keep alive its postseason hopes, and that type of effort is exactly what was given. Unfortunately for the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) Champions, the Breakers were able to match that level of intensity to force a scoreless draw.

“Overall, we played a pretty good match,” Sky Blue FC head coach Rick Stainton said after the game. “We gave a gritty performance, and our girls absolutely played their hearts out tonight. It’s obviously deflating to know we’re not moving forward, but at no point did we ever quit.”

Ultimately, the result in this match would not factor into which WPS team would advance to the postseason, as the Washington Freedom used an 88th minute goal by forward Abby Wambach to knock off the Atlanta Beat in other action tonight. To reach the WPS Playoffs, Sky Blue FC needed to win over Boston, coupled with a Freedom loss or tie.

“Something that makes me so proud of this group is that we were given many opportunities to give up throughout the season, and we never quit,” Stainton continued. “Through all the ups and downs – the injuries, the changes, whatever adversity was thrown our way - we never quit. We remained committed to righting the ship and doing whatever we could to be successful.”

The most vibrant crowd of the entire season came out to Yurcak Field tonight, loaded with everything from drums and cowbells to pans and air horns, and they gave every ounce of support they had to the home team. Sky Blue FC saw its first dangerous opportunity come in the 10th minute of the match when forward Laura Kalmari sent a through ball to striker Tasha Kai in the center of the field. The Hawaiian speedster raced onto the ball and ripped off a hard-struck shot towards the frame, but Breakers netminder Alyssa Naeher was able to extend and get a hand on the attempt.

Another nicely crafted play by the home team was created in the 19th minute of play after Sky Blue FC defender Keeley Dowling won a ball on the defensive end. After she delivered a ball to the feet of Kalmari, the Finnish international tapped it to midfielder Heather O’Reilly on the right flank. The New Jersey native then pressed forward before striking a feed to the top of the 18-yard box. There Kai stepped onto the distribution, and her ensuing attempt was just off the mark.

Once again, Kai nearly gave her team the go-ahead tally just two minutes later when she weaved through traffic on the offensive end and fired off a shot that Naeher deflected just wide of the frame. Both sides continued to battle throughout the entire opening 45 minutes of play, but this game eventually headed to the locker rooms with no score.

In the 60th minute of this match, the go-ahead knock for Sky Blue FC nearly came when O’Reilly drifted a ball from the left flank over the Boston defense where Kai sped onto the distribution. As soon as she got her look, Kai belted a shot towards the target, but Naeher was again able to make the save. As the loose ball began to roll to the right side of the box, Kalmari gained possession but was unable to get an ensuing attempt on frame.

When the 71st minute rolled around, Stainton decided the time had come to attack with numbers. He brought midfielder Yael Averbuch and Brazilian striker Rosana onto the pitch in place of defender Kendall Fletcher and midfielder Jennifer Grubb, opting to work with three players on the back line. The Breakers were able to create on the offensive front on a few occasions after the switch, but Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Meghann Burke answered with a series of remarkable saves to keep the slate clean. As a whole, Burke had a stellar game, recording nine saves and her second straight shutout.

On the other end of the field, Sky Blue FC also continued to battle and threw every bit of energy the team had to find a score. Naeher matched the intensity to also keep the scoreboard empty, and the final minutes of the game rolled off the clock. Unfortunately, those final minutes were also the last ticks of the 2010 season.

“The overall character of this team speaks for itself,” Stainton concluded. “These girls are incredible players and people, and I’m just so proud to have been associated with them this season.”

Boston now awaits the result of a Sunday pairing between regular season champion FC Gold Pride and the Philadelphia Independence to see if it will be seeded as the second or third ranked team in the postseason. The Breakers are currently two points ahead of Philadelphia in the WPS Standings.

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