When I wrote the How To Watch for this game I was hoping there wouldn't be any drama. That Sky Blue would score, score, score and score some more. The pattern this year has been Sky Blue score early and simply give up a late lead. Not this time. Sky Blue took away the drama. Unfortunately, Seattle Reign was the clear beneficiary of the lack of drama. They got the game in the 8th minute and never looked back.
Seattle scored an early goal in the 8th minute. For most of the season Sky Blue has been scoring early and struggling to hold on to leads. This week they gave up a goal early. Sky Blue really struggled with the high press and pace of the Seattle Reign. With the current roster, the team is not built to play from behind. Especially when, with Nadia Nadim on the bench, the team really lacks fire power. While some people were suggesting that Head Coach Jim Gabarra wasn't thrilled with Nadia Nadim after last game, those rumors were quickly squashed as John Archibald tweeted out:
To all of my fine folks who follow the NWSL, Nadia Nadim is not 100%. That's the biggest reason behind drop from Starting XI.— John Archibald (@ResSports) June 7, 2015
This was a big loss for Sky Blue. Nadim's absence puts a lot of pressure on Freels to be the offense. SBFC has only scored 6 goals all year. Nadim has scored two, Freels has scored three and Haagsma has scored 1. Once Sky Blue went behind it never really felt like they had a shot.
This match really highlighted the weaknesses of Sky Blue's style. Head Coach Jim Gabarra has his team play in a very diligent and patient system both offensively and defensively. The team has a very deep line of confrontation and disciplined approach. The team tends to give up a lot of shots but they usually aren't high quality shots. However on the field once they go behind the team doesn't get the ball quickly. The team looks more to contain the other team's offense. On the broadcast Gabarra could be heard trying to urge the players to step in more, trying to win back the ball.
Seattle on the other hand is a pressing team. But not only does this work well as a defensive system, it really helps the team's offense too. Looking at Seattle's first goal: after winning the ball high in Sky Blue's defensive half, it was about 3-4 passes before the ball found itself in the back of the net. On the other hand, Sky Blue's goals this year have come mostly from more traditional and conservative build-up play. Right now, I think that Sky Blue needs to incorporate more pressing into their style. Sky Blue has only kept one clean sheet all year, in their only win of the season. While the team has looked very solid and conservative they aren't scoring and aren't stopping other teams from scoring, so it may be time for something to change.
A big concern coming into the season this year was Sky Blue's depth. It was a well-known fact that Sky Blue had a good starting 11. The problem was that they were losing 4 outright starters to the World Cup in Kelley O'Hara, Christie Rampone, Caitlin Foord, and Samantha Kerr. They also lost two strong forwards in Monica Ocampo and Jonelle Filigno (who started today for Canada).
They couldn't afford to have any injuries and the team instead has had plenty. Meg Morris missed some time which was the catalyst for the semi-successful Maya Hayes at RB experiment. This week the team didn't field a full bench, something they didn't do week 1 either. With Nadim out, the team really didn't a strong option at FW (since their #1 draft pick last year is now a RB). The injury to Killion really upset the balance of the midfield as well. With Killion out Freels doesn't have the same freedom to roam and contribute to the offense. These absences have really been a big part of pushing Sky Blue to the bottom.
As the NWSL has a two week break for the World Cup, Sky Blue will try to bounce back from this slide. The team has struggled offensively and defensively. Furthermore, the team could really use some of their World Cup players back, if nothing else to help spark the team and change things up. It'll also be interesting to see what the team does with Maya Hayes going forward. Once Australia is bounced from the World Cup and Kerr and Foord return, the right side of the field gets a lot more crowded. Kerr and Foord have chemistry from W-League (Australia) and the Australian national team. They both provide a lot defensively and offensively. Throw in Morris who has played well recently and Jim Gabarra goes from a thin roster to a deep squad where he has to make more than a few hard decisions. Will he give Hayes the starting spot, or will Gabarra shuffle the lineup looking for a spark?
Kim Little goal scoring: Kim Little scored her first goal of the season. Last year's Golden Boot winner has been off to a slow start. In her first year in the league a lot of Little's goals came from the spot. This year Little's first goal was once again from the penalty spot. However penalties are notorious inconsistent from year to year which really hurt Little's goal scoring record.
Right Side: It seems that Coach Gabarra has permanently switched Maya Hayes and Meg Morris. While originally it seemed that Hayes was filling in at RB until Morris was fully healthy, today both players started but Hayes was at RB and Morris was at RW, which was a complete reversal from the beginning of the season.
World Cup: So far the only Sky Blue player that has appeared in the World Cup was Jolene Filigno. While Filigno did not score, she displayed a high work rate. She was constantly on the move and was trying to be the spark for a stagnant Canadian team. While the goal that Canada scored came much later off a penalty I am still willing to give her the "I loosened the car" defense for this week.
Thank you for reading and everyone remember to watch the USWNT team take on Australia Monday, June 8th!