Well that might be it. In what Head Coach Jim Gabarra called a "devastating" loss, Sky Blue FC fell 2-1 to the Western New York Flash. It's hard to tell which will be a bigger blow to Sky Blue's momentum, the loss itself or how it happened. Sky Blue now faces pressure to win games away at either Houston or Chicago in order to make a playoff push, but they also need to start hoping other teams to start dropping points.
Here's how it happened. With the game tied 1-1 going into the 90th minute, Western New York sent in a presumptive ball. Brittany Cameron should have had an easy catch, but what ended up happening was she hesitated and let the ball run through. Caitlin Foord, who looked gassed by the end of the second half, couldn't hold off former Sky Blue player Elizabeth Eddy who put the put it into the back of the net.
Brittany Cameron is a wild card.
Brittany Cameron would definitely be on the shortlist for the MVP for the first half of the season, so it's hard to put any blame on her after today's loss. The thing is, she's a very aggressive goalkeeper who will sometimes make something out of nothing. She's not afraid to be aggressive and she wants to help her team maintain possession. A goalie like Cameron always wants the ball.
Off a backpass by Grubka, no one was particularly surprised that as the ball bounced high Cameron tried to play it rather than give up a corner. No one was particularly surprised that that she tried to head the ball down to herself. And no one was particularly surprised that she lost control of it and left the Western Flash an open goal. While she's always calling for it, sometimes it's the defender's job to say no or play it out for a throw in.
The more surprising part was that it came back to affect Cameron later in the game. Talking after the game, Gabarra commented that he thought that Cameron was rattled after the goal and she almost got burned a few times (two of those times she was bailed out by the post). It'll be interesting if this is something that sticks with Cameron for the next few games. If Sky Blue are going to make an increasingly difficult run at a playoff spot, they're going to need Cameron to recover from this game.
Sky Blue waste their early chances
Before the return of their World Cup players, the team struggled with creating chances. What they were doing is scoring their 1 or 2 chances. Offensively, Sky Blue doesn't have a problem creating chances anymore, but now they're having an issue converting them. As clinical as Nadim was last year, she looked devoid of confidence against Western New York, missing 2-3 chances that you expect her to put away and continuously took an extra second or extra touch in the box. Samantha Kerr, since returning from the World Cup, hasn't been particularly clinical. In the last few weeks she's missed a few chances you would expect a striker of her class and pedigree to finish. While her speed is putting her into great positions to create chances and score goals, she really needs to step it up as well.
The only player on Sky Blue that is putting away her chances is Kelly O'Hara. She is being given free range to travel and float where she was. She's looking like Eden Hazard finding space and making things happen. She was slightly too trigger-happy but that's something you want from someone of her caliber. She's scored 3 in her last 2 and is reminding everyone why they gave her the Mac Herman award (hint it wasn't for defending).
Once again Sky Blue is struggling with the 4-3-3. So far this season, Sky Blue has been struggling with exchanging markers, and it was something that was apparent against Houston as well. I'm starting to think its systemic because of how they mark and play team defense. The back line seemingly is marking in a zonal system. Western New York in the first half recognized this and started overloading the fullback zone, particularly the left side. With the fluid movement of Western New York's 4-3-3, the front three would be constantly overloading zones. Heyman, Specncer, and Adrade did a good job of confusing the the back line with their movement. Western New York also pushed their fullbacks SUPER high adding bodies to the attack creating more mathematical mismatches. Kerr and O'Hara stayed high but the team was unable to maintain the possession to take advantage. What that did is put a lot of pressure on the back line and Haagsma to be perfect.
For the first time, there looks to be chemistry and communication issues along the back line. Foord changes the composition of the back line, as she really wants to get forward and overlap with Kerr. Cami Levin looked uncomfortable. Cameron was often yelling at her about her positioning. Levin though seemed unsure where she should be with Foord playing high.
Unsure of her positioning, Western New York was able to find some space behind Levin. Western New York really went after Levin. Forcing her to make tough decisions. With two players in her zone, Levin often stepped to the ball, allowing Western New York to find space behind her. Some people might say that Levin needs to keep the play in front of her, without more help and team defense there really isn't a right decision.
However, Sky Blue isn't devoid of hope. They have one weapon in their pocket: speed. There's nothing you can do that negates straight speed. You literally can't teach it. Sky Blue has oodles of it and can use their speed to take advantage of chances. This was seen throughout the game, as Kerr, Foord, and O'Hara just straight ran by people. Sometimes Western New York didn't help themselves. For example on Sky Blue's goal, Western New York had a set piece and only left 1 defender back. In a classic break out, Kerr, who blew a few chances today, turned provider and performed a simple 1-2 exchange that lead to O'Hara roofing the Sky Blue equalizer.
Gabarra talked about how the team seemed to lose a bit of urgency in the second half, but you can imagine that with their backs now truly against the wall Sky Blue will be forced to be aggressive. Gabarra is going to need his team to play fast if they are going to make the play-offs.
Nadia Nadim looks low on confidence. It is one of those things with strikers. Against Kansas City Nadim blasted home a goal from a crazy angle with a defender on her back. Today she tried a similar thing and it went straight to the Chantel Jones, who had a quietly good game in net. Strikers need a little confidence and sometimes a little luck to start scoring.
Brittney Cameron lucky in the 65th minute. Something that looked like a kick out after she saved the ball outside the box for a throw in. The ref didn't see it and the Flash didn't see it so no harm no foul.
The attendance was a season high 3,152. That number is impressive because we are now the team's second game after the World Cup. Hopefully the number keeps growing, but after taking a subway, train, taxi, to get to the game I hope it doesn't close the door on other venues.