Last week's victory over Portland provided everyone associated with the Sky Blue a measure of relief and an end to a 10-game winless streak. A second win today against the Western New York Flash could lift New Jersey out of last place in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and begin real talk about making the playoffs.
The Sky Blue (2-6-4, 10 points) will hope to build momentum in Rochester against the Flash. After Chicago drew with Boston last night, a win against the 4-5-2 Flash would push the Sky Blue ahead of Boston and even with Portland and Houston with 13 points.
“Last weekend’s win was one of our most complete performances of the season, which is why we were able to secure the three points,” said Jim Gabarra, Sky Blue FC head coach. “Heading into this match-up, we understand the importance of continuing that momentum. If we are able to pick up a win over Western New York on their home soil, it will continue our pathway to reach the playoffs.”
Last week's win was vital. Sky Blue FC had more energy than they've had since the opening game victory over FC Kansas City on April 12. The match was played in front of a season-high crowd of 3,014 due in part to the return of the Women's World Cup stars including the USA's Christie Rampone and Kelley O'Hara. Those two didn't play but Australian international Samantha Kerr did, making her first appearance for club since she was acquired from the Western New York Flash, tomorrow's opponent.
Kerr scored the game's only goal on a superb snap-header off a great cross from Maya Hayes for the game's only goal. Besides the goal, Kerr was dangerous from the right flank all night and opened up room for teammate Nadia Nadim. The two proved to be a nice tandem up front. Kerr nearly added a stoppage time score, just slotting a shot wide of the post.
New York fell to Seattle, 4-2, in its first game since the World Cup end, as a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-1 deficit in a six-minute span in the second half. The Flash were scheduled to have their two United States' World Cup players, defender Whitney Engen and striker Sydney Leroux, back. However, Leroux will undergo surgery and her NWSL season is over without having played a match for the Flash. Engen, the lone United States field player not to appear in a 2015 World Cup match, will be available to play, according the Flash website.
Leroux, however, won't play for the rest of the NWSL season as she undergoes ankle surgery this week. She is expected to miss three months. Leroux's playing time decreased as the tournament went on, seeing only a few minute against Germany and did not take the field in the final.
Stephanie Mewis is the big scoring threat with 3 goals and 2 assists. Becky Edwards has also contributed with 2 goals and three assists.
Sky Blue looked more settled in the back with Aussie Caitlin Foord playing her second match with the team. If Rampone comes back against the Flash, it would provide a solid line with either rookie Kristin Grubka or veteran Lindsi Cuthsall. O'Hara could fit in as an outside midfielder, make the Sky Blue the most potent it has been all season, although converted outside back Maya Hayes is a scratch with a leg injury. O'Hara could play her familiar outside back. Juggling the lineup with international players returning is a problem Gabarra may like and with a few more positive results, a playoff spot may be more than a dream.
Corner Kicks: Katy Freels leads Sky Blue FC in scoring with 4 goals. Nadim is next with 2 goals and an assist. This is the first meeting between the two teams, although there are only eight games left. The two teams meet again in Piscataway on Aug. 1. ..The Flash will also have a short pre-game ceremony to honor both the Flash and Sky Blue FC players that won the 2015 Women's World Cup....The match is also a homecoming for Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron, who played three years for the Flash.....Another Aussie, Michelle Heyman, will be available to make her NWSL debut for the Flash after being signed last week following a strong performance at the World Cup.