Categorized | Match Reports

Pride Stumbles in 2-0 Loss to Sky Blue

Posted on 28 June 2010 by asu

The FC Gold Pride suffered their third loss of the season tonight against NJ Sky Blue. Playing in triple-digit weather seemed to have a different and opposite effect on each team, with the Pride limping into the game with heavy legs and only beginning to heat up too late into the second half while Sky Blue consistently sizzled with offensive aplomb and a composed and cool defense.

The first five minutes of the game seemed like any other Pride home game. There were several offensive chances with a main play in the 4th minute on a Pride forward Kelley O’Hara cross from the left side of the field to a rushing Shannon Boxx. Unfortunately, Sky Blue goalkeeper and All-Star team pick, Karen Bardsley, shut down the duo by palm-punching the ball away from the mouth of the goal. Sky Blue defender and team captain, Christie Rampone, then cleared it from the penalty area. The rest of the first half was slow, with few other offensive attacks and with more passing by both teams than pressure by either. After the first 10 minutes, Sky Blue maintained clear possession, with several runs where their players got past the Pride backline. However, Sky Blue then held the ball far too long when in striking distance, which allowed Pride players to track back and regain possession.

As the first half wore down, Sky Blue seemed to pick up their pace while the Pride continued to hold the ball. The Pride back line consisting of Candace Chapman, Rachel Buehler, Kandace Wilson, and Ali Riley started being tested with frequency and ferocity. Sky Blue’s defensive trio made up of Heather O’Reilly, Laura Kalmari, and Rosana kept chipping away at the centerbacks with an endless flurry of crosses and give-and-gos. At the whistle, the score remained 0-0.

Seeming to sense the team’s lethargy, Pride coach Albertin Montoya made all three substitutions within the first 3 minutes of the second half. As a result, the second half saw more chances on goal by the Pride, but the runs were still a little slower and the reactions to set plays were still a little sluggish. Sky Blue took advantage of the Pride’s stupor in the 58th minute with a O’Reilly cross from the right side of the field onto the head of a speeding Rosana who tapped it over Pride goalkeeper Nicoe Barnhart’s head. The Pride finally reacted with a flurry of offensive activity, with a majority of activity coming from halftime substitute, Tiffany Millbrett, who had several shots on goal that were just wide of the target.

Unfortunately, even with the fresh legs of Millbrett and Montoya’s other substitutes, Kristen Graczyk and Camille Abily, the Pride’s offensive opportunities continued to be limited by Rampone’s organized back.

Sky Blue sealed the deal with second half substitute Natasha Kai’s goal in the 88th minute. Kai received a through ball from Jessica Landstrom and was able to put on the afterburners and beat Graczyk and Buehler for a one-on-one with Barnhart. While facing Barnhart, Kai stepped to the left and then slotted a driven ball to the outside post, just past Barnhart’s outstretched fingers and into the back of the net. The Pride was not able to launch a successful attack in the remaining minutes of the game. During stoppage time, Marta vocally expressed the displeasure and frustration that all the Pride players must have been feeling on the inside; she received a yellow card for her troubles. The game ended with a definitive 2-0 Sky Blue victory.

The highlight of the Pride’s latter half was Millbrett’s ability to tap into seemingly endless reserves of energy and make run after run, despite the heat and the physical play. But, the talk of the game was the ability of Sky Blue’s defensive line to shut down the offensive trio of Christine Sinclair, Marta, and Kelley O’Hara. Bardsley controlled the backline and cleared balls from her area with seemingly no feelings of pressure, even with Pride players running onto the backs of her defenders. When asked about key to shutting down the Pride offense, Bardsley cited the “constant communication between me and my back four and our midfield” and “trying to get them to stay proactive in finding marks.”

Sky Blue coach Pauliina Miettinen praised her team for being “being disciplined” and praised especially the defense, stating that, “defense is the most key to any game,” regardless of possession. Rampone acknowledged that shutting down Marta, Sinclair, and O’Hara was crucial, and “they definitely made us work,” so they had be “locked on [them] at all times.”

Montoya was understandably frustrated, yet focused on the positives, acknowledging that as a “team we were creating our chances,” and “didn’t give up” while “created some very good chances inside the 18 and it just goes back to having to finish your chances.” Buehler conceded that it was a “tough game” with the team struggling with the heat and ultimately not “capitalizing on our opportunities,” but that the frustration was “also part of the game.”

The Pride needed this win to solidify their first place ranking as the Philadelphia Independence were nipping at their heels with their June 26, 2010 win over the Washington Freedom. With this loss, however, there is a mere one point difference between these high-flying acts. The Pride travels to Atlanta this coming weekend to battle the Beat.

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