In a chippy and hotly contested match, Sky Blue made strides on the field as they coped with the loss of their national team players. Sky Blue improved throughout the match and worked hard for a deserved 1-1 draw against the Seattle Reign with Brittany Cameron making a few big saves.
Formation and Tactics
This week the team returned to a three person midfield after experimenting with a 4-4-2. Coach Gabarra dropped Mya Hayes to the bench going for to truer wide midfielders in Gordon and Lytle. With Haagsma playing as a true holding midfielder, the team looks a little bit more like their early season form allowing the fullbacks to get forward and Killion and Freels to be more active. The fullbacks were more active than they in previous matches, taking the space in front of them and provided width for the attack.
Seattle played a 4-2-3-1 formation. When they had the ball, the Reign pressed forward and tried to overload the defensive line by forcing 4 person marking along the backline. Kim Little tried to play between the lines where in the space occupied by Haagsma. The fullbacks ventured very high up the fielddd, while the two center backs man marked Nadim for the entire game.
Deep line of confrontation
The back line once again did a good job of keeping the team and action in front of them. The team stayed as a flat back four and allowed the action to come to them without pressing too hard. Sky Blue constantly communicated and seamlessly switched off on attackers. The fullbacks stayed narrow and made sure that the only space available was between them and the white chalk. Gabarra mentioned after the game that this was intentional move. Reign Coach Laura Harvey complimented Sky Blue's defensive strategy and organization.
The team also did a better job of dealing with the forward pressure of the Reign. During their match up with Houston Dash, Sky Blue had a harder time dealing with the 4-3-3 where they gave up 3 goals. Playing compact defensive soccer isn't pretty, but it gets results.
Last week it was a breakdown on a corner against Chicago. This week the team gave up two big chances from set pieces. On one play early in the first half Killion bailed the team out with a goal line clearance on the corner. Eventually the team gave up a goal in the second half when they didn't properly defend Seattle's short corner. The team broke up the initial corner but struggled with clearing the ball. Coach Gabarra was not happy about the goal itself as the ball traveled through the whole team from 20-25 yards out.
From open play team is doing a good job of staying organized and defending makers, and one would expect a coach of Gabarra's standard to work out the kinks throughout the season.
On the offensive end though, Sky Blue was finally able to kick start their offense with a set piece opportunity. In the 88th minute Killion served in an in-swinging corner kick and chaos ensued. While it was hard to see exactly what happened, the ref deemed that one of the two or three goal line saves was made by Seattle's Jess Fishlock with her hands. Unfortunately Fishlock is not Seattle's goalie. Nadim slotted away the penalty and the team took the point.
Nadia Nadim Forced to Find Space out wide
Before today, Nadim hadn't scored since her game wining goal in week one. After her scoring streak last year took teams by surprise, this year Nadmim has been a little more quiet. Teams have been forcing Nadim to find space behind the fullbacks and to hold up the ball. Right now she doesn't have the space to make magic happen. The entire game Nadim was man marked by both of Seattle's center backs. She played the role of a target player well and was able to lay the ball off to her teammates. The team is really working hard and look much better at connecting with each other on the field. Nadim commented how she's working to stay high up and try to create more space for her and the midfield to run into.
- Maya Hayes, who was a little quiet in the previous weeks as a starter, came off the bench and added some intense energy to the team. Pressing and playing aggressively she forced a penalty shout in the 73rd minute
- Brittany Cameron is really taking a vocal role on the field. You constantly hear her marshaling not only her backline but also instructing the runs of the midfielders and forwards as well.
- After the game Reign Coach Laura Harvey relayed that Fishlock insisted she did not handle the ball. While she was non-committal about appealing, she indicated that she would be very open to the process after viewing the footage.
- Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra pointed to the team's resurgence in the second half as a sign of things to come. While the team was missing the last pass he was happy at how they rebounded after a sluggish first half. He was also very complimentary of the team's two rookies, Killion an Grubka, who he has thrown to the fire so far.