Now this is more like it. Putting together its finest and most complete effort of the season, Sky Blue FC climbed out of last place of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) with a 3-1 victory over the Boston Breakers at Rutgers University's Yurcak Field in Piscatway.
The victory lifted Sky Blue FC to 3-6-5 for 14 points. They vaulted over Boston who fell to 3-8-3 and held steady at 12 points and Portland, who is 3-5-4 for 13 points. Portland plays at Seattle Sunday. Houston stayed ahead of everyone with a 1-0 win over Western New York.
After playing mix and match with the lineup for nearly the entire season because of injuries and the Women's World Cup, Sky Blue FC finally had the 11 that can play with any team in the league. Jim Gabarra started Cammi Levin, Christie Rampone, Krisitin Grubka and Caitlin Ford in the back, allowing Kelley O'Hara to move to midfield.
The moves paid off handsomely and quickly. O'Hara scored a pair of goals in the opening 45 minutes to pace the home team. Australian international Samantha Kerr added a goal seven minutes into the second half to complete the scoring. And after scoring only eight goals in the first 12 matches, Sky Blue now has scored six in the last two matches.
But Gabarra is a hard guy to please.
"I don't think this is the best game we've played this year," he said following the victory. "I think we benefited from playing a fatigued team and our strength made it tough for them to match up against. We certainly came out strong and put them on the back foot. We could have scored a few more goals by halftime. It's nice to get a break and play a team playing its third game in eight days with two being on the road.
"We're starting to really sharp and very dangerous and difficult to defend against. I think there were some performance that were as good or maybe better but we suffered a late goal for a tie or loss."
The outcome was never in doubt as Sky Blue FC put together its most potent attack all season, fielding a lineup that was complete with four of its international players
Sky Blue FC had room in the midfield and its strikers could find all the room it needed behind the Breakers' defensive back four. From the opening whistle, the home team was dangerous and kept Boston goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher busy. Naeher, the third string goalkeeper for the United States Women's National team, made five saves before the match was 10 minutes old - diving, slapping and punching dangerous shots out of harm's way.
Those threats came from a number of Sky Blue players - Nadia Nadim, Samantha Kerr and Katy Freels to name a few. But it was O'Hara who finally put Sky Blue on the board in the 13th minute. Freels had plenty of time on the right flank and served a well-paced ball to the top of the box. O'Hara got there ahead of Boston's defender and slotted the ball past Naeher.
Sky Blue continued to control the match but couldn't score again for the next 20 minutes. Defenders Cammi Levin and Catilin Foord took turns making outside runs while Kerr and Nadim always seemed to be getting behind the defense.
"Kelly and Sam and Katy were doing a great job of getting into pockets of space and facing up," Gabarra said "Once that happens there's all kinds of opportunities and space. Even Hayley and Sarah (Killion) were coming out of midfield and were providing good support and playmaking at a deeper level. I think they had fun today. It's hard to have fun when you're grinding it out and playing well but not getting results."
O'Hara doubled the lead in the 36th minute. Starting at midfield, Foord chipped the ball to Kerr on the right wing. She moved quickly and got to the endline before she turned and passed to O'Hara at the six. O'Hara roofed the shot over Naeher for her second goal of the game and season.
O'Hara nearly got a first-half hat trick in the 45th minutes but Naeher dove and parried the ball around the post.
"Boston is a good team and you want to play our game, combining in the middle of field and finding players and having those combination plays. I'm happy with the way we played, " O'Hara said as hudreds of kids screamed for her autograph. "They were both excellent balls by Katy and Sam and I just wanted to get into the right spot."
Seven minute into the second half, Haagsma sent a ball from just beyond midfield aimed at Kerr. Mollie Pathman got a foot on it for Boston, but Kerr picked her pocket and went in alone on Naeher to make it 3-0.
Sky Blue could have at least doubled the score as they continued to be dangerous - spreading the ball around the box
Boston finally pulled one back in the 84th minute when Lauren Lazo finished a feed from Rafina from in close.
Sky Blue FC hosts the Western New York Flash next Saturday.