When the season started, Sky Blue was on a franchise record win streak. Now the team has gone 6 matches without a win. In what Coach Jim Gabarra called a must win game, Sky Blue walked away with another disappointing result. After an early goal from Katy Freels, Sky Blue was unable to hold on. Another failed clearance on a corner kick led to Steph McCaffery tying it up for the Breakers.
Sky Blue came out in what seems to be their now standard 4-3-3. With Morris on the bench recovering from a leg injury, Hayes slotted in at RB. Last week she almost exclusively was man-marking Crystal Dunn, however this week she played a more traditional RB role. With rookie Sara Killion out with a leg injury, Long Island native Kim DeCesare slotted into the central midfield. The rest of the line up was unchanged from the last few weeks.
The Breakers fielded a fairly offensive minded line up. In what looked like a 4-2-3-1. Of the attacking 4, Mewis was the only one that seemed to have a consistent position with staying wide left providing the team with width and attacking the unseasoned Maya Hayes. The rest of the attack, Marlborough, McCaffery, and Rafina were constantly switching positions. However unlike Seattle or Houston, the Breakers didn't look to create overloads on the back line. Instead they tried to stagger their runs or start runs from a deeper position to create space and mismatches.
Testing their Depth
Sky Blue was already missing 5 players due to World Cup commitments. With Christie Rampone and Kelley O'Hara with the US, Caitlin Foord and Sam Kerr with Australia, and Monica Ocampo with Mexico, now was the absolute worst time for Sky Blue to get bit by the injury bug. Sarah Killion missed her second game in a row, and Meg Morris, while available on the bench and came on in the 70th, was still recovering from injury. This forced Maya Hayes into playing fullback. Just to put that in perspective, Hayes played striker in college for Penn St and was Sky Blue's lone forward for most the year until Nadim pushed her to playing right wing. Now Hayes is once again forced to play in a new position, testing her versatility as she plays her third position of the year.
Haagsma secures her spot
Hayley Haagsma is essentially a rookie. After missing the 2014 season where she tore her ACL in a pre-season game against St. Johns, Haagsma has come back strong this season. Initially finding herself on the bench and then deployed at RB, Haagsma has emerged as the team's holding midfielder where she has started the last 3 games. It's no coincidence that the last 3 games have been the most promising offensive performances for the team. Haagsma has done a great job shielding the defense and allowing Sky Blue's more offensive players to flourish while giving the team defensive cover and allowing the fullbacks to get forward.
Set Piece Struggles
Sky Blue once again struggled with the clearing a set piece. After struggling with set pieces against Chicago and the Reign, Sky Blue gave up a set piece goal that is eerily similar to that against Chicago and Seattle. After the initial corner Sky Blue struggled to fully clear the ball. This is continuing to be a problem for Sky Blue.
Breaking down the Breaker’s Goal
This week I wanted to try to figure out exactly what's wrong with Sky Blue's set piece defense. Taking a closer look at the goal from this match, a few problems emerge. Cameron clears the initial corner to the side, which should the end of danger. However King is able to recover and find Lazo who is all by herself.
With all 10 field players in the box there’s no one to act as an outlet for Sky Blue or to pressure the ball. Lazo has time to pick up her head and play a quality ball into the box.
While the ball is in the air you can see that Hayes is marking McCaffery, however Hayes peels off of McCaffery and leaves her open at the top of the box.
The pass falls to the now open McCaffery who is able to score on what is essentially an open goal.
Let's compare this to the goal that Sky Blue gave up against Seattle. Many of the same problems emerge.
Sky Blue once again had all 10 field players back. With 9 of 10 field players in the box, Hayes is forced to cover two players at the top of the 18. Once she commits, you can see the ball being laid off to the open player who with time is able to score.
The problem seems to be that Sky Blue likes to have all 10 field players defending the corner kick. While they have done a good job defending the initial corner, the problem is what happens after. There is no go to outlet for the team. Furthermore there is no pressure on the defenders who are free to roam forward. The biggest problem could be that with so many players defending the corner, there may be too much traffic and bodies for goal keeper Brittany Cameron to deal with.
- Sky Blue has not won a game since their week 1 upset of Kansas City. That is a run of 6 games without a win.
- With this 1-1 tie Sky Blue continues to be the only NWSL team that has yet to score multiple goals in a game.
- Last week for the first time Sky Blue outshot their opponent, this week for only the third time all season Sky Blue got to double digits in shots. While one of those was in a loss where Washington got ahead early and sat back, the other two were in the last two weeks. This looks like it could be a sign of an upward trend and may be signs of the stagnant offense waking up.
- Sky Blue has also given up 101 shots all year, the most in the NWSL. Only one team, the Washington Spirit, have given up more shots on goal too.