Late Heroics Stretch Unbeaten Streak

Nogueira equalized for Sky Blue FC in the 88th minute (Photo by Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
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Forward Casey Nogueira Provides 88th Minute Equalizer in Dramatic Finish

For the second week in a row, Sky Blue FC (2-3-2, 8 points) used late heroics to earn a dramatic result in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) action on Friday night. Forward Casey Nogueira provided a thrilling 88th minute goal to equalize for her team against the top-ranked Western New York Flash (6-0-2, 20 points), 2-2, with Sky Blue FC battling all the way back from being down two goals and extending its unbeaten streak to three games in the process.

“I was a little disappointed to see us going into the half down two goals, considering we really controlled play over the first 35 minutes of the game,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra stated. “When we came out in the second half, we decided to go with three up top and approached it like it was a 0-0 game. Once Allie Long got us a little bit closer by converting a penalty kick, we showed great resiliency until Casey Nogueira was able to equalize for us. We came up here focused on getting a result and now look to keep this momentum going as we return home for our next two games.”

Sky Blue FC came out with good energy in this match-up, displaying a sound determination in its play. However, no shot attempts came from either side until the 20th minute. On the play that led to that first try, Nogueira forced a turnover at the top of the formation and immediately fed Eniola Aluko the ball. The English international then found midfielder Angie Kerr in space, but her ensuing strike sailed over the Western New York frame.

The deadlock was finally broken in this contest in the 39th minute. Flash midfielder Gemma Davison raced down the left flank with the ball at her feet before sending a cross to the center of her offensive end. Awaiting the distribution was Western New York striker Christine Sinclair, who was able to put a powerful header onto the feed. Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Jenni Branam read the attempt very well and even got a hand on the shot, but the velocity of the ball was too much and hit the side netting.

Following that offensive spark, another great opportunity came for the Flash just five minutes later. Midfielder Caroline Seger started the play by passing to Marta, who quickly flicked the ball over to a speeding Sinclair. After collecting the feed, the Canadian striker paused before seeing Seger breaking free towards the frame, and she immediately played her for the quick one-touch goal. The notch would give Western New York a two-score advantage, still holding that 2-0 tally when the whistle was blown for halftime.

Sky Blue FC nearly closed the gap in the 60th minute of this pairing, with Noguiera making the most of a free kick opportunity on the left end of the 18-yard box. She fired the ball into play, looking to go near post before Flash netminder Ashlyn Harris had the opportunity to react on the attempt. The shot by Nogueira nearly hit the mark, but Harris was just able to get a hand on the try. When the rebound came off the save, Swedish midfielder Therese Sjogran attempted to put it away, but her strike was also saved.

Five minutes after that near hit, Sky Blue FC was finally able to get on the scoreboard. After Harris was able to punch away a shot attempt, Western New York defender Kimberly Brandao was whistled for a handball when she tried to settle the rebound. On the ensuing penalty kick, midfielder Allie Long stepped over the ball and was able to place it perfectly into the right netting, edging her team closer to equalizing the tally, 2-1.

Showing incredible resiliency, Sky Blue FC then earned the draw in the 88th minute of this match. On the scoring play, Finnish international Laura Kalmari delivered a cross into the middle of the attack. There to receive distribution was Nogueira, who had been causing fits the whole game on her left post. After the ball bounced into the former Tar Heel, she then flicked it over the head of Flash midfielder McCall Zerboni and immediately struck a half volley into the far side netting, knotting up the count at two apiece.

The pace over the remaining minutes of this affair was rather frantic, but the scoring in this contest concluded with that Nogueira notch. When the final whistle was blown, a 2-2 tally would be the result.

Sky Blue FC will now return home to Yurcak Field on Sunday, June 12th, to host the Boston Breakers. Kickoff is slated for 4:00 p.m., and tickets for that contest are available now.

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