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Sky Blue comes oh-so-close to upsetting Seattle Reign

Sky Blue had a great game plan that had Seattle beat for 90 minutes. But a stoppage time goal by Jess Fishlock results in a 1-1 draw

Sky Blue Photo/Robyn McNeil

As they have been all season, Sky Blue FC were so close but couldn’t finish it off. Using a great defensive effort and a first-half goal by Nadia Nadim, Sky Blue FC were minutes away from upsetting the Seattle Reign at the Memorial Stadium.

But Kim Little, who was seemingly everywhere in the second half, served a perfect ball from the left side to the far post where Jess Fishlock headed it against the grain in second-half stoppage time. Fishlock’s goal prevented Sky Blue from notching their biggest win of the year, which would have also been the first-ever loss at Memorial Stadium for the Reign, and resulted in a 1-1 draw.

The draw gave Seattle a 12-3-4 record and left Sky Blue FC at 5-7-7.

The tie was reminiscent of the first meeting between the two teams on May 9 in New Jersey. That time it was a penalty kick by Nadim on a handball by Fishlock that gave Sky Blue the draw.

Little led a Seattle second-half that kept Sky Blue on its heels, who were protecting the one-goal lead. The Seattle midfielder moved up higher in the last 45 minutes and began taking on Sky Blue’s backline and was dangerous for the entire half. At times, she took on one, two, three and four Sky Blue players, trying to get something going for the NWSL Shield winners.

It appeared that effort was going to be wasted as the half wore on. Little’s free kick in the 83rd minute, a liner from about 30 yards away, deflected off a Sky Blue defender and went off the post before bounding away from danger.

Nine minutes earlier, Little took a ball from Fishlock, turned left and found a little room to shoot. With goalkeeper Brittany Cameron at her mercy, Little skied the shot over the bar.

And those were only the closest of calls. Seattle had plenty of other opportunities to tie the score, throwing numbers up in waves. They came from the backline, the midfield and just about everywhere.

Sky Blue’s defense was bending without breaking at that point. Lindsi Cutshall and Christie Rampone did their best to break up the Seattle offense in the second half, heading the ball away, tackling and at times even fouling.

The draw also marred the excellent first-half where, truthfully, Sky Blue should have had more than one goal.

Nadim gave the Sky Blue the lead in the sixth minute on a 25-yard free kick after Katy Freels was fouled. Nadim and Freels stood over the ball, which was about 15 yards from touchline. Nadim took the free kick and lined it far post. Goalkeeper Hope Solo got a hand on it but couldn’t prevent it from going in.

Seattle appeared to draw level in the 34th minute when ittle chipped a pass to Megan Rapinoe, who got in between the Sky Blue central defense. Rapinoe settled the ball and put it past Cameron but was called for handling the ball, although the US women’s national team star clearly indicated it went off her chest.

Sky Blue had several chances to double its lead as Nadim continued to be active and the Sky Blue were able to get numbers in on the attack. A very organized defense with Rampone and Cutshall leading the way allowed the Reign very few opportunities and minimalized their various weapons.

In the 36th minute, Sam Kerr worked along the right side and found Nadim open in front the Reign goal. The striker never got a clear chance on the ball and Rachel Corsi and Solo cleared the ball out. With five minutes to go in the half, Kerr and Nadim worked a clever give-and-go on the right side leading to a solid service by the Australian striker. Nadim, Kelley O’Hara and Freels all had chances to put it in the net but somehow Seattle kept it out.