Sky Blue FC Forced to Settle for Draw

Laura Kalmari gave Sky Blue FC the lead in the 18th minute (Photo by Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
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Christina DiMartino Tally Draws Count Even

Sky Blue FC (0-0-1, 1 point) roared out to a 2-0 halftime advantage in its 2011 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) season debut at Yurcak Field on Sunday night, but a valiant second half effort from the Philadelphia Independence (0-0-1, 1 point) leveled the match at its conclusion, 2-2. The home team held a 2-1 lead entering the 90th minute of play, but a Sinead Farrelly to Christina DiMartino tally occurred shortly thereafter to equalize the count at two each.

After a battle for possession ensued following the opening whistle, Sky Blue FC began to find its groove. The team was distributing the ball well, and an aggressive demeanor paid dividends in the 18th minute. Midfielder Allie Long found space and delivered a feed over to defender Brittany Taylor on the right flank, who then placed a well struck feed to a streaking Laura Kalmari in the center of the box. The Finnish international then one-touched a rope that found its way past the outstretched arms of Philadelphia netminder Nicole Barnhart, giving the home side a 1-0 advantage.

Sky Blue FC continued to apply pressure on the offensive end of the field, and the team earned a free kick in the 36th minute as a result of that effort. That chance then gave two-time NCAA Player of the Year Casey Nogueira a chance to show off why Sky Blue FC aggressively sought her in the offseason. After stepping over the ball, the former Tar Heel fired a strike towards the frame that changed its direction and spun in the upper left 90 and over the head of Barnhart. That tally made it 2-0 in favor of the New Jersey club, and that advantage held until halftime.

While Sky Blue FC came back out in the second half with the same eleven players, the Independence opted to bring forward Amy Rodriguez onto the pitch in place of midfielder Joanna Lohman. The move was a worthwhile one, as the U.S. National Team striker was able to put her team on the board in the 56th minute. After Tasha Kai sent a ball forward, Rodriguez raced onto the feed and found herself in a 1v1 situation with goalkeeper Jenni Branam. Before the gap was able to be closed by the Sky Blue FC netminder, Rodriguez struck the ball under a diving Branam and into the left netting to edge Philadelphia within a notch, 2-1.

In the 67th minute of this match, an eruption came from the hometown New Jersey crowd when Basking Ridge native Tobin Heath checked in for her first action in a Sky Blue FC kit. She did provide a spark to her side, but the Independence was able to maintain momentum following the Rodriguez notch. After continuing to battle for the equalizer, Philadelphia was finally able to find it in the 90th minute when DiMartino leveled the terms.

Three minutes of stoppage were played after the score, but the final whistle would eventually blow with the count even.

Next up for Sky Blue FC is a Saturday road pairing with the Atlanta Beat (0-1-0, 0 points), kicking off at 7:00 p.m. at KSU Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia. The match will be the first of three consecutive games away from home for Sky Blue FC before returning to Yurcak Field on Saturday, May 21st, to host Atlanta at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for that contest are available now by calling 888-SBFC-TIX.

Related Links:
ResVideo: Sky Blue FC Player Reactions
ResVideo: Head Coach Jim Gabarra's Reaction

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