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Red Stars spoil Branam’s Sky Blue return

Posted on 02 August 2010 by lbarker

Some 18 weeks after breaking a bone in her knee in Sky Blue FC’s final preseason match (way back on April 5th), goalkeeper Jenni Branam returned between the posts for the defending champs, but the visiting Chicago Red Stars put a damper on her first game back. A fourth minute tally from Ella Masar and a little insurance care of Karen Carney were all the Red Stars needed to hand Sky Blue their fourth consecutive loss. Brittany Taylor netted Sky Blue’s lone goal, but her stoppage time tally was too little, too late for the Blue and Orange.

Branam looked to be back to her old “sweeper-keeper” self just two minutes in, venturing some 25 yards off her line to beat a breaking Cristiane to the ball. “It’s awesome” Sky Blue defender and captain Christie Rampone said of Branam’s return. “I like playing a high line, now we just have to get on the same page. She’s good no matter what. She’s flying out of the net, making saves, using her voice, so it’s great to have her back.” Branam’s return wasn’t the only change in back for Sky Blue, Daphne Koster moved from the center to an outside back position, Keeley Dowling returned to the starting lineup as a centerback, and rookie defender Brittany Taylor moved up to the midfield.

That whole “not being on the same page” thing got Sky Blue in trouble early though, as Chicago midfielder Karen Carney had no trouble feeding a ball through to Ella Masar who was able to beat Branam and put the visiting Red Stars up 1-0 in just the fourth minute. Masar’s goal was good for her team-leading fifth of the season. “This one’s finish was phenomenal” Carney, pointing to Masar, said after the match. “It goes to the team,” said Masar of the uptick in goals. “Sometimes I feel lucky ’cause they have to worry about Cris (Cristiane) on the one and Kaz (Carney) and Pinoe (Megan Rapinoe), so I think I get forgotten sometimes.”

Sky Blue FC got their first real opportunity of the match in the eighth minute, as Taylor fed a ball across the Chicago goalmouth. Taylor’s cross beat Loyden but the Chicago defense was able to clear the ball. A minute later Heather O’Reilly nearly had a breakaway, but Whitney Engen tracked back to shoulder O’Reilly off the ball.

In the 17th minute Carney, looking for her second assist of the match, crossed a ball through the box that was just out of Cristiane’s reach. In the 23rd Masar barely missed with a diving header, courtesy of another Carney cross.

The 28th minute brought another chance for Sky Blue, this one from the foot of Laura Kalmari, whose shot from 25 yards out had to be tipped over the bar by Red Stars’ ‘keeper Jillian Loyden. In the 44th minute O’Reilly played a ball through to Kalmari, who took a shot as she and Formiga made contact. The crowd anticipated a PK, but referee Daniel Radford signaled to play on and the half ended with the visitors up 1-0.

The second half began with both teams battling in the midfield, but neither side able to get many quality chances. In the 61st minute, the Red Stars were able to break through and double their lead, care of Carney. Sky Blue had trouble clearing the ball and Chicago defender Marian Dalmy was able to send a cross through to Carney who beat Branam with a far post shot.

Sky Blue looked to get on the board but spent the majority of the remainder of the half struggling to move the ball past midfield. The Chicago defense did well to pull the Sky Blue attack offside on several occasions. In the 77th minute O’Reilly was able to beat her defender before taking a shot that went wide.

Well into the three minutes of announced stoppage time, Sky Blue was finally able to get on the board. Second half sub Tasha Kai crossed a ball to Taylor who went one v. one with her defender before firing a low, hard shot at the Chicago goal. Loyden was able to get a hand on the ball, but couldn’t hold on. The tally was the second in as many games for Taylor. “[Loyden] got a hand on it, so I just wanted to keep it low and hard” said Taylor of her goal. “It’s hard because you want to feel good to get a goal, but it’s hard when you’re losing. I’m kind of excited, I’ll look back and be happy later I guess. I’d prefer to win and not score.”

Despite the late-game efforts, Sky Blue would ultimately run out of time for a comeback. The final whistle blew soon after the restart following Taylor’s goal, with the Red Stars grabbing a 2-1 victory, and perhaps more importantly, a hold on fourth place in the WPS standings. Sky Blue FC meanwhile, drops into a fifth place and out of playoff contention for the first time this season, just one point ahead of the Washington Freedom and Atlanta Beat at the bottom of the table. “Today was a crucial game for us, we understand that, but we gotta look ahead, look forward. There’s still a lot of season, a lot of fight left,” said Sky Blue head coach Rick Stainton.

For Chicago, the importance of getting back to their winning ways with little more than a month left in the season, wasn’t lost on head coach Omid Namazi. “We’re on the back end of a three game losing streak so anytime we get a ‘W’ it’s a good feeling. The belief starts coming back a little bit, the confidence comes back, so it was a good win,” he said after the match. The remainder of Chicago’s season won’t be easy though, with the Red Stars set to face both league leaders FC Gold Pride and the second place Philadelphia Independence twice through the final weeks. “We’ve had a couple rough patches, so now it’s just about being consistent” said Masar.

On the Sky Blue FC side, the Jersey team isn’t giving up on their season just yet. “It is getting better, but it’s still not good enough,” said Rampone. “But I think we’ve gone through a tough season last year and I think the emotions are still going for this season. But it is getting better, I think emotionally we’re getting there, but it’s just individually we need to have more grit.” The Sky Blue captain also acknowledged that with the constant changes in Piscataway, which include two coaches, three goalkeepers, and a slew of injuries to key field players, we haven’t seen a complete Sky Blue FC just yet. “It is getting to be a better environment. I think one or two more games hopefully you’ll see the real Sky Blue team,” she said. “At the end of the day, even though it is a loss, I think we’re working towards something now.” The question is, with just eight games to go, will the real Sky Blue FC stand up in time? Stainton believes they can, and will. “We’re not letting them put their heads down. There’s no reason to put their heads down. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the depth. We’re just plugging away, trying to organize it all. We gotta believe. That’s the word we keep throwing around, ‘believe.'”

FUN FACTS:
Chicago Red Stars’ midfielders Karen Carney and Nikki Washington both were celebrating their birthdays – Carney turned 23 and Washington 22…Speaking of Washington, the Red Stars are the fourth WPS team the UNC alum has been associated with – originally drafted by the LA Sol in January, her rights were picked up by Sky Blue FC in the dispersal draft. Sky Blue was unable to come to terms with Washington, who was still recovering from a knee injury, and traded her to St. Louis Athletica, along with Anita Asante, in exchange for India Trotter. Washington was reportedly ready to sign with St. Louis, but Athletica folded before a deal was reached. She then signed as a free agent with Chicago and logged her first minutes in WPS as a second half sub on July 25th…Asante also signed with Chicago, but the English International wasn’t rostered for the match, however fellow former Sky Blue FC player Julianne Sitch was, and replaced Formiga in the 62nd minute…Sky Blue’s former Red Star, Carli Lloyd, wasn’t rostered as she continues to recover from a broken ankle…Sky Blue is now winless in their last 5, including four straight losses – the last win came on June 27th – they’ve been outscored 9-2 during that time…Brittany Taylor’s stoppage time goal was just the third Sky Blue has scored at home all season and was the first run-of-play goal Sky Blue FC has scored at Yurcak Field since the sixth minute of their season opener on April 11th, an astonishing 624 minute span – the other goal was a PK that Rosana converted on June 19th…This was the final meeting of the regular season between Chicago and Sky Blue, with each team winning two of the four games. Sky Blue is now 5-2-1 lifetime against Chicago…This season Sky Blue FC is 1-8-1 when their opponent scores first…Sky Blue’s next home game is April 11th, when the team will wear special pink kits as part of WPS and Puma’s ‘Project Pink’ initiative to help raise awareness and funds for breast cancer.

MATCH FACTS:
Sky Blue FC (5-8-3) vs. Chicago Red Stars (5-8-5)
Sunday, August 1, 2010 — Yurcak Field
FINAL

SCORING SUMMARY:
Team 1 2 F
NJ: 0 1 1
CHI: 1 1 2

CHI: Ella Masar 5 (Karen Carney) 4′
CHI: Karen Carney 1 (Marian Dalmy) 61′
NJ: Brittany Taylor 2 (Tasha Kai) 90+

SKY BLUE FC — Jenni Branam, Daphne Koster, Keeley Dowling, Christie Rampone, Meghan Schnur, Brittany Taylor, Kendall Fletcher (Tasha Kai, 73′), Laura Kalmari, Heather O’Reilly, Kacey White (Patrizia Panico, 85′), Rosana (Yael Averbuch, 46′)

Substitutes Not Used: India Trotter, Shannon Myers, Danielle Johnson, Angela Salem

CHICAGO RED STARS — Jillian Loyden, Marian Dalmy, Whitney Engen, Kate Markgraf, Natalie Spilger, Formiga (Julianne Sitch, 62′), Karen Carney, Katie Chapman, Megan Rapinoe, Ella Masar (Nikki Washington, 69′), Cristiane (Casey Nogueira, 79′)

Substitutes Not Used: Lydia Vandenbergh, Meghan Burke

TEAM STATS:
NJ CHI

Shots 11 8
Shots on Goal 3 6
Fouls 6 7
Offsides 8 4
Corner Kicks 8 2
Saves 4 2

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY:
none

Referee: Daniel Radford
Referee Assistants: Mike Kampmeinert, Ryan Dos Reis
4th Official: Hakan Baydere
Attendance: 3539

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