So where does Sky Blue FC go from here? A heartbreaking 2-1, last-minute defeat to the Western New York Flash before a record-setting crowd at Yurcak Field last Saturday has certainly washed away any momentum Sky Blue had built up over its previous three matches.
And while mathematically still alive in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) playoff hunt, Sky Blue has an uphill battle in the remaining five games. That begins with tonight's match in Houston against the Dash. First kick is at 8 p.m. (EDT) at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Sky Blue FC is now 3-6-5 for 14 points and eighth place in the standings. Houston is 5-5-5 for 20 points and is in fourth place - which is also the final playoff spot. The Dash hold one-point advantage over FC Kansas City (5-6-4).
Needless to say, this a must-win game for us," said Jim Gabarra, Sky Blue FC coach in a news release. "We had a good performance when we went down to Houston last season, and we will need to replicate that on Friday night. We are playing a Dash team that is in good form, so we will have to continue playing at the level we have been over the past few games. However, we must do a better job in the final third and be more clinical in our finishing."
History: The two previous matches between the Dash and Sky Blue FC in 2015 were 1-1 draws in Piscataway. On April 18, Katy Freels and Jessica McDonald exchanged goals. In the May 31 rematch, Kristin Grubka converted a Freels corner kick to give Sky Blue the lead but Allie Bailey converted in the 86th minute to bring Houston level. The first match was with the World Cup players, the second was without them. The two teams split a pair of games in 2014 with Nadia Nadim scoring a hat trick in a 3-1 win in Houston.
Who's hot: For Sky Blue, Kelley O'Hara has been on fire since her return to Sky Blue FC following the World Cup. She has three goals and two assists over the last four matches. For Houston, Carli Lloyd scored in her first three games back before being shut out in a 3-1 loss to Washington. Lloyd was named the NWSL Player of the Month for July - a first for both Lloyd and the Dash.
Matchup to watch: Sky Blue FC striker Nadia Nadim has been getting more room to work since Aussie teammate Sam Kerr and O'Hara returned to the lineup. She'll be going up against United States international defender Meghan Klingenberg, who had rave reviews at the Women's World Cup.
Injury Report: Houston goalkeeper Erin McLeod is listed questionable with a shin laceration suffered in a 3-1 loss to Washington. For Sky Blue, Maya Hayes and Kim DeCesare are out. Central defender Lindsi Cutshall has been cleared to play after missing several weeks with a concussion.
What it means: Every game is a must game for Sky Blue but time is clearly running out. The loss to Western New York could be the death blow to Sky Blue FC. Coming in with all kinds of momentum and facing a tired Flash side, the home team needed three points but were willing to settle for one before Elizabeth Eddy's 90th minute diving header ended the match. Houston also had some momentum riding into its match with Washington, winning three in a row. But the Spirit used a first-half hat trick by Crystal Dunn to win, 3-1.