Sky Blue FC and Houston Dash were two teams looking to stake a claim as a contender for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) title after both finished at the bottom of the 2014 table.
Both had opening days wins but 90 minutes of entertaining soccer didn’t prove anything as both teams played to a well-deserved 1-1 draw at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J.
The draw was a little more disappointing for Sky Blue FC who played with the lead at home. The drw ended the club's six-game winning streak, leaving Sky Blue one short of tying the league record.
"It's always tough when you give up the lead," said Sky Blue captain and US Women's National Team player Christie Rampone. "They're a good team and it was back and forth, We had some trouble in transition and that hurt us."
Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra agreed.
"We didn't have good energy tonight and we couldn't maitain possession especially in transition and eventually that hurt us," said Garbarra. "You can't defend for long stretches of time and then give the ball back."
Houston drew even with a goal in the 52nd minute from Jessica McDonald from in close Morgan Brian, the league’s first round draft pick, picked up her first point of her career by serving the ball in from wide out over the head of Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron. McDonald was there to nudge the ball in for her first goal of the season.
Katy Freels, who displayed a bit of a scoring touch in pre-season, scored in the 14th minute to give Sky Blue FC the lead. Freels connected from 13 yards out, roofing a shot from the center of the area. Defender Kelley O’Hara served in a solid ball from the left wing.
The Dash had a few opportunities in the opening half with New Jersey native Carli Lloyd often in the middle of things. Lloyd found Kealia Ohai with a great serve from the left wing in the seventh minute. Ohai’s shot nearly found the net but Lindsi Cutshall cleared it off the line.
Midway through the opening half, Lloyd stole an errant pass deep in the area and blasted a shot that just went over the top.
Freels nearly had a second goal in the 20th minute as Nadia Nadim took a long ball over the top and got into the area. Houston cleared the ball to Freels who hit a solid top over the bar.
Sky Blue had few chances in the second half. Shawna Gordon tried to slip a ball to speedy striker Maya Hayes but goalkeeper Erin McLeod came out to scoop it up.
In the final minutes, Houston put pressure on which resulted in a flurry of long balls and corner kicks. McDonald nearly scored the game-winner with a pair of head balls in the 85th and 86th minutes but both were just wide of the mark.
Brian also had a head ball in the 88th minute that forced Cameron with a nice reaction save.
In stoppage time, Lo’eau LaBonita had a chance when Freels found her open on the left side but her long distance shot went high.
Striker Nadia Nadim and Rampone both left the match early. Nadim only played 45 minutes while Rampone played until the 67th minute.
Both substitutions erred on the side of caution, according to Gabarra.
"Nadia had a groin injury that tightened up and Christie has been working with a knee injury," said the coach.