Sky Blue FC top Chicago in season opener

Posted on 12 April 2010 by lbarker

New coach, new players, new confidence. The 2010 season kicked off for defending WPS champions Sky Blue FC at home at Yurcak Field in New Jersey on Sunday night with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars.

Before Sky Blue version 2.0 could begin its title defense, the teams as well as the fans in attendance got a shiny reminder of the year that was; the 2009 WPS Championship trophy was displayed at midfield as the players were introduced.

The trophy plus the Red Stars’ 0-3-1 record against Sky Blue coming into Sunday’s match may have taken a psychological toll on the team from the Windy City. Most of the Red Stars attack came from Cristiane, who struggled to get a shot on frame. The Brazilian International sent the ball wide several times, and the rest of the Red Stars rarely challenged Sky Blue keeper Karen Bardsley, despite an abundance of corner kick opportunities. Bardsley got the start in net after Sky Blue’s number one keeper Jenni Branam sustained a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage on Monday. Branam is expected to return in early June.

Sky Blue’s back line, missing a pair of central defenders in Christie Rampone (pregnancy) and Anita Asante (knee), looked solid at times and questionable at others. Sky Blue, wearing their away orange kits, gave up 13 corners to Chicago, something head coach Pauliina Miettinen was less than thrilled about. Overall Daphne Koster, captain of the Dutch National Team, but a newcomer to WPS, did well alongside fellow a newcomer, Sky Blue’s first round draft pick Brittany Taylor, to frustrate the Chicago offense. Bardsley acknowledged her back line after the game,”I think we played well. I mean, we could’ve done a few things better. Like I said, it was difficult to kind of get on the same page at first, we’ve got a lot of new faces but I think for the most part we did all right.”

Natasha Kai scored the Sky Blue's only, and winning, goal in their home opener

Sky Blue went on the attack early. New Red Stars keeper Jillian Loyden, coming off a 2009 season as Hope Solo’s backup in St. Louis, had to pull a Yael Averbuch cross out of the air in just the second minute. The Jersey club kept the pressure in the offensive half, and Tasha Kai converted in the sixth minute. Sky Blue pressed Chicago’s defense and forced an awkward clearance from Loyden that Carli Lloyd picked up for New Jersey. Lloyd got the ball to Heather O’Reilly, who sent a pass forward to Kai. The speedy forward slipped past the Chicago defense and then slipped the ball past Loyden, putting Sky Blue on top before the clock reached double digits. Chicago defender Kate Markgraf thought going down early contributed to her team’s struggles. “We let a goal in and it’s tough to come back. New Jersey’s a great team, they have great chemistry. They know how to win” Markgraf said and added, “Natasha Kai is an explosive forward. And [Kalmari], she’s not small.”

Chicago quickly tried to counter off the restart, first with former Sky Blu-er Julianne Sitch, now playing for her hometown Chicago Red Stars, sending a shot in on Bardsley from about 25 yards out, but it was right at the Sky Blue goalkeeper. Then just a minute later, a miscommunication in back brought Bardsley out of position but the Red Stars were unable to convert on the opportunity. Bardsley was quick to point out that a language barrier between her and Koster, who’s from The Netherlands, wasn’t the issue, “Her English is great. I really think it was kind of difficult to hear each other out there.”

Chicago’s next opportunities came in the 10th and 11th minutes, as the Red Stars earned three quick corners. Again they were unable to put anything in the back of the net. The teams exchanged chances in the 15th. Kai sent a ball in to O’Reilly who was open on the back post, but the play was called back for offsides. Chicago went quickly the other way, but Cristiane sent the ball wide.

Sky Blue FC would get another opportunity in the 20th minute as a clearance from Loyden was quickly collected by Sky Blue. It was O’Reilly again feeding the ball to Tasha Kai. Kai made a well timed run towards the corner before sending the ball across to wide open Yael Averbuch. Averbuch took a shot from the top of the 18, but it sailed over the bar. Ella Masar had an opportunity for Chicago in the 27th minute, picking up a ball from Cristiane and beating Daphne Koster before a deflection off Sky Blue’s Keeley Dowling sent the ball out.

Former Chicago Red Star Carli Lloyd nearly added a tally against her former team in the 37th minute. Lloyd collected a pass from Finnish International Laura Kalmari, and dribbled through several Red Stars players before sending a ball just past Loyden and in front of an open Chicago net. The Red Stars’ defense was able to regroup enough to get the ball quickly into the hands of Loyden. Pauliina Miettinen had high praise for Kalmari, pointing to her fellow countrywoman as Sky Blue’s best player in the match. Chicago had a chance of their own three minutes later as Sitch sent a half-volley from the center of the area towards the net, but it was again deflected out.

Chicago came out firing in the second half. Just after the whistle a misplayed ball by Yael Averbuch was picked up by Chicago. Ella Masar sent a nice back-heel through to Katie Chapman, but Chapman’s shot went just wide. In the 64th minute Heather O’Reilly nearly added an insurance goal for Sky Blue FC, sending a ball into the box that ultimately found Loyden after a series of collisions. Kai, making a run towards goal, got tangled up with Marian Dalmy, sending both players to the ground. Red Stars defender Ifeoma Dieke tripped over Dalmy and then collided with Loyden as the Chicago keeper tried to make the save. Fortunately for Chicago, no one from Sky Blue was there to collect the loose ball.

Cristiane had another opportunity in the 72nd minute after a failed clearance by Koster left the ball at the Brazilian International’s feet, but her shot again sailed wide of goal. Swedish International Jessica Landstrom, who replaced Kai, had a chance for Sky Blue FC in the 77th, taking a wide open shot on a ball from O’Reilly. Landstrom’s shot though, was right at Loyden.

In the 79th minute Casey Nogueira had a free kick for Chicago from just outside the box, but the rookie forward sent the ball directly into the Sky Blue defense. Cristiane had another good chance for Chicago a minute later, but Koster was able to recover and stop what would have been a wide open shot on goal.

Rosana had another chance to increase Sky Blue’s lead in the 81st, firing a deceptive shot from distance that Loyden had to stretch to reach. Chicago quickly countered, as poor clearance by Sky Blue landed at the feet of Karen Carney. Carney was failed by her first touch and then went down as a diving Karen Bardsley came out for the ball and the two made contact.

Chicago would get one final chance in the 88th minute. After a short corner, Chicago’s 13th of the match, Cristiane fired a shot that was initially bobbled by Bardsley. Sky Blue would again quickly counter, but that attempt was punched out by Loyden. The New Jersey squad would get one more chance in stoppage time, as Rosana played a ball in for Landstrom, but the Swedish striker couldn’t get her head on it.

Chicago Head Coach Emma Hayes was pleased with her team’s performance despite the loss, but wasn’t happy with the job that referee Ted Unkel and his crew did. “You know, it’s our first game…good performance, disappointing result, shocking officiating,” said Hayes after the game. Chicago defender Kate Markgraf had a slightly lighter view of the officiating. “I think every team that loses thinks there should be some PKs. I’m like 60 yards away most of the time, so I don’t see it. I’m sure they probably think there was a PK, too. So, as long as it’s called the same, what can you do.”

Sky Blue FC Head Coach Pauliina Miettinen had similar praise for her squad. “I overall am very happy. Last year I heard that we lost this game. Now we won this game. We set the tone.” But the coach believes that this team is better than what they showed, “I blame it all on the first game…it’s just nervousness, you know…so excited for the game and then it’s a new system it’s almost like you’re afraid to make a mistake. I think it’s going to be better next game” Miettinen said. As far as the officiating, Miettinen would only say “all in all I think it went both ways.”

Midfielder Kacey White wore the captain’s armband for Sky Blue FC in the absence of Christie Rampone. “I’m extremely honored to represent the team. It’s such a great group of women. It’s a very big honor for me to captain in Christie’s place until she gets back. So I’m very excited about that….We had a vote on the captain [this past week] and I was lucky enough to be honored by my teammates” White said about her new role with the team. And speaking of captains, Kate Markgraf wore the C for the Red Stars. Last year’s captain, Lindsay Tarpley, was traded to St. Louis in the offseason. Markgraf missed the 2009 season after giving birth to twins. But she was excited to be back on the field, and impressed with what she saw from both squads. “The technical ability of the Red Stars as well as, I was impressed with Sky Blue’s mentality and the way they stay together. And they know how to play with each other. And they are a very good team. So, I’m just impressed. I think the level is extremely high.”


Chicago Red Stars midfielder Megan Rapinoe did not make the trip to New Jersey with the team, she is recovering from viral meningitis, Chicago Coach Emma Hayes said that both Rapinoe and Brazilian International Formiga will be ready for next week’s match…Sky Blue’s Christie Rampone was in attendance and is expected back by June…Through four matches Chicago has never scored against Sky Blue FC and the Red Stars have never done better than a tie against the NJ team…Sky Blue FC has not allowed a goal in more than 281 minutes and three games, since the 79th minute of their first round playoff game in 2009…Sky Blue has never lost a game in which Tasha Kai has scored a goal…Chicago coach Emma Hayes and Sky Blue FC coach Pauliina Miettinen are the only two female coaches in WPS…Carli Lloyd and Julianne Sitch were both free agents after 2009 and swapped teams to play in their hometowns, NJ native Lloyd came from Chicago to the Garden State and Illinois native Sitch from Jersey to the Red Stars…the attendance for the match was announced at 4440


Sky Blue FC (1-0-0) vs. Chicago Red Stars (0-1-0)
Sunday, April 11, 2010 β€” Yurcak Field

Scoring Summary:

NJ: Tasha Kai 1 (Heather O’Reilly) 6′


Shots 10 20
Shots on Goal 4 5
Fouls 6 3
Offsides 6 6
Corner Kicks 2 13
Saves 5 3


SKY BLUE FC β€” Karen Bardsley, Keeley Dowling (Danielle Johnson, 88′), Daphne Koster, Brittany Taylor, Meghan Schnur, Heather O’Reilly, Carli Lloyd, Yael Averbuch (Rosana, 66′), Kacey White, Laura Kalmari, Tasha Kai (Jessica Landstrom, 73′)
Substitutes Not Used: Kiersten Dallstream, Katie Schoepfer, Meagan Snell, Ashley Thompson

CHICAGO RED STARS β€” Jillian Loyden, Marian Dalmy, Kate Markgraf, Ifeoma Dieke, Whitney Engen (Jessica McDonald, 87′), Kosovare Asllani, Katie Chapman, Brittany Klein, Julianne Sitch (Karen Carney, 66′), Ella Masar (Casey Nogueira, 78′), Cristiane
Substitutes Not Used: Natalie Spilger, Kelsey Davis



Referee: Ted Unkel
Referee Assistants: John Schmitz, Brian Dunn
4th Official: Richard Sanchez

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