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Sky Blue FC, Freedom play to 0-0 draw in [another] Stalemate in the Garden State

Posted on 08 July 2010 by lbarker

Many Sky Blue fans would probably want to forget the last time they saw their team play at home. Those in attendance three weeks ago saw the blue and orange upstaged by the expansion Philadelphia Independence, in an ugly 4-1 drubbing. Since then Sky Blue has been busy, handing first place FC Gold Pride their first home loss of the season, sending six players to the WPS All-Star Game in Atlanta, and then meeting President Barack Obama, who honored the team at the White House on July 1st for their 2009 WPS Championship. They’ve also since lost All-Star goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, likely for the season, with a broken collarbone and Swedish striker Jessica Landstrom to FFC Frankfurt of the Frauen Bundesliga. On Wednesday night at Yurcak Field in New Jersey, Sky Blue FC finally came home and treated the 2,871 in attendance to a good ol’ defensive battle, drawing 0-0 with the Washington Freedom. “A good, solid game” was how Sky Blue coach Pauliina Miettinen described it.

The chances came early for both teams. In the third minute Sky Blue FC ‘keeper Kristin Luckenbill, playing in place of the injured Bardsley and the still injured Jenni Branam, made a save on Freedom forward Lene Mykjaland. The Norwegian International received a feed from Sarah Huffman and fired a low shot that Luckenbill was able to reach. Two minutes later Sky Blue had their first chance of the match, as Heather O’Reilly sent a cross in for India Trotter, who was waiting at the back post, but the Washington defense was able to clear the ball.

In the ninth minute Rosana took a shot that was easily saved by Washington ‘keeper Erin McLeod. McLeod made another save in the 17th minute, this one coming on a shot by Sky Blue defender Brittany Taylor. Sky Blue kept the pressure on and had one of their best chances of the half, also in the 17th. O’Reilly beat the Freedom defense and sent a ball across the open net, but no one was there to put the ball away for the home side.

In the 27th Sky Blue forward Laura Kalmari took a shot from distance that curved towards goal, but it was too high. A minute later Trotter took a shot from almost the same spot, but hers too sailed over the bar. In the 30th minute Rosana had another good chance for Sky Blue, but her shot from near the top of the six yard box rolled just wide of goal.

Both teams exchanged chances through much of the remainder of the half, with the back four on both sides shutting down nearly everything that came their way. In the 34th minute Washington Freedom forward Abby Wambach received a yellow card after making contact with Sky Blue captain Christie Rampone.

In the 40th minute the Freedom got their best, and final, chance of the half, as Mykjaland took a hard shot on goal. Luckenbill made the save and she McLeod both went into the halftime break with zeros on the board.

The heat, which hovered in the 90s for much of the match, was a factor as the night wore on. “It was hot, I mean think we saw at the end of the first half there was a lot of fatigue and so from the middle part of the second half it was difficult to play” said Washington Freedom coach Jim Gabarra, who also acknowledged that the players were probably hotter than he was. “I wasn’t running around but it was hot in the locker room” Gabarra joked after the match. The Freedom coach also got a little heat from the referee. “My job is to protect my players and that’s his job as well” said Gabarra, who had a ‘friendly chat’ with both the fourth official and the referee during the game. “I should not be screaming at him from the sideline and he rightfully came over and said ‘this is your warning.’ But it’s an emotional game and I can’t get out there and play. He gets to run around and blow his whistle, I just get to stand there and yell at him” Gabarra said.

The second half started with Italian National Team captain Patrizia Panico making her WPS and Sky Blue FC debut. Panico, who signed with Sky Blue in early June, made her presence felt almost immediately, playing a ball in the six yard box to Laura Kalmari that was just out of the Finnish International’s reach. In the 54th minute it was again the Italian International kick-starting the Sky Blue attack. Panico, O’Reilly and Kalmari went through a sequence of passes in front of the Freedom goal before Kalmari took a shot that sailed over the crossbar.

Three minutes later it was Kalmari with another shot, this one saved by McLeod. The Freedom ‘keeper and Kalmari made contact on the play and the ball came loose and to O’Reilly who was able to fire a shot off the rebound, but it was almost directly at McLeod, who was nearly at the edge of the 18 yard box and in position just enough to stifle the attempt.

In the 60th minute Rosana sent another shot for Sky Blue harmlessly over the crossbar. In the 62nd O’Reilly took a hard shot that rolled just wide of goal. In the 68th Panico fed a ball through to Rosana, but the Brazilian International sent the ball where so many Sky Blue shots before had gone; over the crossbar (perhaps someone should take a tape measure out to Yurcak and check that those goals are the right size…).

In the 71st the Freedom had one of their better chances, off of a free kick near the corner. Sonia Bompastor’s ball was punched out by Luckenbill. A minute later the Freedom continued to pressure the Sky Blue defense and nearly caught Luckenbill out of position, but the shot went just wide of goal.

In the 82nd minute Sky Blue defender Daphne Koster received a yellow card for contact with Wambach. Three minutes later Panico had what would be the final chance of the match. In the 86th minute Sky Blue’s newest player took a shot from about 25 yards out that went directly at McLeod and the match ended where it started, with a 0-0 scoreline. Sky Blue did manage 19 shots, with five of them on goal. “Last week playing was one of our best games. The week before playing here was one of our worst” said Luckenbill after the match. “And this one was, we could’ve done better on the offensive side, I think finishing our chances, but overall a pretty good team effort.”

The 0-0 draw is the second at home for Sky Blue on the season, the other coming May 29th against Boston. Sky Blue has managed just two goals at home all year, one by Natasha Kai six minutes into the season opener and the other the lone tally in the Philadelphia match, a PK converted by Rosana. “I don’t know what the thing is, but we try our best and I think– I wish we had better results at home and we won all the time but that’s– I think it seems like we play better at away games” said Miettinen when asked about her team’s offensive woes at home.

Luckenbill had a lot to be happy about after the match, turning in a performance that was a little different than her last outing with Sky Blue (that would be the aforementioned 4-1 loss to Philly). “I think it was a good draw. We had some chances. Obviously you’re at home, you want to come away with a win, but I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed of today” said Luckenbill. “It was really hot, we worked our butts off and nobody gave up in this heat, it’s impressive.” Luckenbill saw 16 shots from the Freedom and made five saves on the night.

O’Reilly saw the performance as a sign of things to come for Sky Blue, “I think that more than just even getting the point, which is always nice, it’s just that we’re layering in aspects of our team. I think that we are keeping possession a lot better than we ever did and we had a great game last game.” The Sky Blue midfielder continued, “We definitely grew in some areas today. Obviously the finishing touch wasn’t there, but I think that we’re pleased with our organization on defense and some of our movement offensively off the ball. So we’re really coming together and I think that we walk away from this game pretty happy with our performance.”


The match was played on Rosana’s birthday. The Sky Blue midfielder/forward turned 28…Ddespite the heat, which announced as a record for the hottest WPS match in league history, both teams used only 2 of their alloted substitutions…The match was the 12th of the season for Sky Blue and head coach Pauliina Miettinen. Barring any unforeseen circumstances Saturday’s match in Chicago will be the 13th for Miettinen, earning her the somewhat dubious distinction of ‘longest tenured coach in SBFC’s history’ (coach number two, Kelly Lindsey, made it 12 games before unexpectedly resigning in July of ’09. Officially Miettinen is the team’s fourth coach in half as many seasons)…Koster’s yellow card was her second of the season, no other Sky Blue player has more than one…Abby Wambach’s yellow card was her first of the season and just the third of her WPS career…This game marked the halfway point in the season, but it was the first time this year that Sky Blue and Washington have played each other…Sky Blue has never beaten Washington in the regular season, however they did beat the Freedom in the first round of the ’09 playoffs…This is the second 0-0 draw in a row for the Freedom, they tied Chicago by that score on Sunday…Sky Blue is also coming off a shutout, a 2-0 away win over FC Gold Pride on June 27th…Sky Blue FC plays Chicago on Saturday. In six lifetime meetings, the Red Stars have never beaten the NJ club…Panico wears number 96 for Sky Blue, the highest jersey number of any player in the league. She is the first, and only, Italian player in WPS…Panico is the third National Team captain on Sky Blue’s roster. She joins Christie Rampone (US) and Daphne Koster (Netherlands)…The shutout was Sky Blue’s league-leading sixth of the season…Landstrom “mutually terminated her contract with Sky Blue FC” sometime last week and has since signed with FFC Frankfurt in Germany…Freedom defender Becky Sauerbrunn played the full 90 minutes, continuing her streak of playing every minute of every WPS match the Freedom have played. No other WPS player has done this… Keeley Dowling, who hasn’t seen much time for Sky Blue as of late, played the full 90 minutes in place of an injured Megan Schnur.


Sky Blue FC (5-4-3) vs. Washington Freedom (4-3-5)
Wednesday, July 7, 2010 β€” Yurcak Field



SKY BLUE FC β€” Kristin Luckenbill, Brittany Taylor, Daphne Koster, Christie Rampone, Keeley Dowling, India Trotter (Patrizia Panico, 45′), Kacey White, Yael Averbuch, Laura Kalmari, Heather O’Reilly, Rosana (Tasha Kai, 73′)

Substitutes Not Used: Kendall Fletcher, Shannon Myers, Kiersten Dallstream, Danielle Johnson, Angela Salem

WASHINGTON FREEDOM β€” Erin McLeod, Rebecca Moros, Nikki Marshall, Cat Whitehill, Becky Sauerbrunn, Sonia Bompastor, Allie Long, Sarah Huffman, Homare Sawa (Beverly Goebel, 64′), Lene Mykjaland (Christie Welsh, 81′), Abby Wambach

Substitutes Not Used: Brittany Klein, Kristi Eveland, Meagan McCray



Shots 19 16
Shots on Goal 5 5
Fouls 4 4
Offsides 3 3
Corner Kicks 3 6
Saves 5 3

WSH: Abby Wambach (Caution) 34′
NJ: Daphne Koster (Caution) 82′

Referee: Daniel Radford
Referee Assistants: Mike Kampmeinert, Juan Guzman
4th Official: Hakan Baydere
Attendance: 2, 871

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Lauren Barker Says:

    “Ddespite the heat, which announced as a record for the hottest WPS match in league history, both teams used only 2 of their alloted substitutions” SHOULD BE: “Despite the heat which was announced as a record for Piscataway and was one of the hottest WPS matches in league history, both teams used only 2 of their allotted substitutions.”

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