At a time when they needed it most, Sky Blue FC came out with its most complete game of the season - and on the road, no less.
Using a very organized defense spearheaded by goalkeeper Brittany Cameron and adding a goal in each half, Sky Blue FC defeated the Houston Dash, 2-0, in BVAA Compass Stadium and kept their hopes alive in the chase for National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) spot.
The victory gives Sky Blue a very important three points, pushing their record to 4-7-5 for 17 points. Houston fell to 5-6-5 and held at 20 point in fourth place in the table - the league's final playoff spot. The victory also gives Sky Blue the season series, which may come into play as a tiebreaker.
Nadia Nadim and Sam Kerr provided the scoring for Sky Blue, the Danish international scoring in the first half and the Aussie adding the insurance goal in the second half.
Nadim, who had a hat trick in her first game in this stadium a year ago, scored from about six yards out with a head ball that re-directed a serve from Cami Levin in the 38th minute. Sam Kerr started the play by serving a ball from the corner to Kelley O'Hara. O'Hara shanked the first time shot and the ball skidded to the end line. Levin scooted behind Houston's Jessica McDonald and served to the center of the goal where Nadim had position over Toni Pressley and scored her fourth goal of the season.
In the second half, Kerr picked up her third goal of the season in the 72nd minute. She picked up a loose ball and went in goal from about 30 yards out. Houston defender Ella Masar slide in to block the shot but Kerr picked up the loose ball and fired it in the empty net.
Cameron and her back four made the goals stand up. Cameron was at her best in recording her third shutout of the season. She came into the match leading the NWSL in saves with 73 and will stay there after an aggressive and smart outing. Cameron came out when she needed to, stayed on her line to pick off balls in the air and directed her defense into making all the right moves.
The Sky Blue goalkeeper made three sterling saves - denying Melissa Henderson in the first half, deflecting a Carli Lloyd free kick in the second half and punching away the ensuring corner kick over Pressley. She ended the match by thwarting Lloyd on a one-on-one matchup.
Melissa Henderson was the most dangerous player for the Dash in the opening half. In the 27th minute, Henderson slipped behind the Sky Blue defense and took long serve from McCleod on the run. She blasted a shot from the left side that Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron was able to get a hand on. The ball ricocheted off the post and went out of bounds.
Henderson also had two other chances that were dangerous. She got behind Sky Blue captain Christie Rampone for a shot from 20 yards but hit it wide in the 36th minute. She also had chance with a head ball on a serve by McDonald but couldn't get a clean shot off.
World Cup star Carli Lloyd started slow and picked up her game as the half went on. She had two chances on free kicks. The first came on the final play of the half when she ripped a 30-yard free kick after she was brought down by Lindsi Cutshall. Her strike swerved right and went wide of the goal. In the second half, Lloyd stepped up from 22 yards out and blasted a line drive ticketed for the upper right corner. Cameron got her hand on the shot, sending it wide. On the ensuring corner kick by Lloyd, Cameron leaped in a crowd to punch out the serve just at Pressley was heading it.
Lloyd also had a chance near the end of the match when Brazil's Andressa sent her in on goal alone. Cameron came out to cut off the shot, getting a piece of Lloyd as well as the ball.
The second half highlighted how organized the Sky Blue FC defense was. Ramone and Lindsi Cutshall dominated the central part of the defense with Caitlin Foord and Levin controlling outside. Houston continued to attack through the air where they are one of the most potent teams in the NWSL. Their six balls off headers are second in the league.
Nadim had a couple of chances in the second half to double her output. One was struck hard but right at goalkeeper Erin McCleod. Another time O'Hara served Nadim but her shot was just off the mark. Freels found her open in the box as well but the Houston defense collapsed on the striker.
Sky Blue has a quick turnaround as it travels to Chicago Wednesday for a match against the second-place Red Stars.