If this result wasn't so heartbreakingly familiar it might be funny or comforting. The feeling for Sky Blue fans can only be described in one way:
Reoccurring nitemare.— Cloud 9 (@Cloud9_Skyblue) August 30, 2015
After going up in the 6th minute off a world-class strike by Nadia Nadim, it can only be described as discouraging that Sky Blue was unable to take advantage of the lead and put the game away. Entering the second half, Seattle came alive and were repeatedly denied by the woodwork, the linesman, and just general black magic. Prompting people to ask the hard questions:
I am not saying there is a force field around the Sky Blue goal, but we should prob check if they have any engineering majors on the roster— Sarah (@DasGherkin) August 30, 2015
Either way, the equalizer came. But what to make of it is a different question.
This is one of those games where it is hard to determine if the missed victory means anything or if it really means nothing at all. Sky Blue knew that they wouldn't finish last, and Seattle had just clinched the NWSL Shield on Wednesday. With almost nothing on the line, its hard to put any weight on the result of the game.
This 1-1 tie can be read as either discouraging or encouraging. On the discouraging note, Sky Blue once again spent most of the game ahead by a goal, and once again spent a lot of the game on their back foot. In a result that was more familiar at the beginning of the season than in their games since the World Cup break, the team went ahead and once again found themselves unable to hold the lead. They once again sat too far back and for the most part looked like they were going to give up an equalizer.
On an encouraging note, for 85 minutes, they didn't give up the equalizer. Sometimes you need luck for these things to change. Unfortunately they didn't have all the luck today. It seemed like Seattle was constantly knocking on Sky Blue's door with balls off the woodwork and offside calls. But what Sky Blue did show is that they could come into the house of the back-to-back NWSL Shield Holders and push them to the brink. Seattle has built a fortress at home and Sky Blue looked like they could've taken all the points.
In Sky Blue's previous game at Seattle this season they lost 3-0. This time they held their own for most of the game and walked away with one point. Sure, they would've wanted all three, bu they would have been the only team to win at Seattle this year - and one should not ignore the fact that only one other team this year to get a point in Seattle was the Chicago Red Stars, who are play-off bound.
This fact should encourage Sky Blue as they go into next year. They should acknowledge that they have the talent, willpower, and drive to stand toe to toe against what is a potential NWSL dynasty.
I have questioned Nadim's goal scoring form since her arrival at the beginning of the season. Well, she scored from an angle and position that many would think would be nearly impossible.
Nadim took a free kick and hit it flat in a way that we would imagine Cristiano Ronaldo might do. That is the skill of the Danish striker. Assuming she comes back next year, Sky Blue will hope to get more goals like this and less of her poor form inside the penalty box.
Last year, Nadim's mid-year arrival meant that she had one job to do: score goals. This year she has been given more tactical responsibility. In Gabarra's 4-3-3 she has been tasked with holding up the ball more often. This either inolves her trying to hold the ball for her wingers to get open or make runs for her or her drifting out wide trying to latch onto over the top balls into the corner. The problem with both of these is that they not only take her away from goal, but perhaps add too much to her plate.
This year Nadim has averaged about three shots per 90 minutes, last year she averaged 4.18 shots per 90 minutes. Last year she was getting about 52% on target, this year about 50%. That's 1.18 shots more per 90 and about 2% more shots on target. That means between this year and last year, Nadim's underlying number of shots and shot percentage are about equal, the only difference is the result.
Many times this year, Nadim has been denied by late, good saves and blocked shots by defenders. This could come down to two things: bad luck and a lack of confidence (something that is entirely possible) or just overthinking by a striker. The brilliance of athletes comes from the fact that they aren't acting consciously but instead acting subconsciously. Perhaps in Nadim's newly increased role, she is no longer acting instinctually in the box. But given the opportunity for instinct to take over, a simple free kick with expectations to score, Nadim did exactly that. Ripping an impossible shot from an almost impossible angle, she didn't have to think about her tactical role, or who's run she was going to pick out she only had to think about thing: getting the ball in the net.
Sky Blue came into this game only needing to look better than they have done for most of the season. And that was achieved. SBFC has shown the league that not only is it a team to worry about next year but it could be a contender.
Next, Sky Blue will be at home taking on FC Kansas City, looking to take the points and momentum, and hoping to do it all in front of a few thousand friends.