Whether Friday the 13th took its toll on the Breakers or the luck of the Irish was on the side of Sky Blue, one thing is certain: Sky Blue FC finally walked away with their first home win of the season.
Sky Blue FC (2-2-1, 7 pts) faced the Boston Breakers (0-5-0, 0 pts) at Yurcak Field on Friday, May 13 in their third home match of the season. SBFC was previously 0-2-0 at home this season, losing 2-1 to both the Washington Spirit and Western New York Flash.
However, SBFC managed to finally pull out a 1-0 win over the Breakers, giving SBFC their first home win, their second win of the season and a much-needed three points.
"Obviously, we are happy with the result here tonight. It was good to see our team close out the 1-0 win. We learned some lessons last week [against WNY] and wanted to make sure that we did not allow what went down there to happen again," Head Coach Christy Holly said in a statement.
Although Sky Blue has seen strong play on the road, defeating the Seattle Reign FC 2-1 in their season opener and holding the Houston Dash to a 0-0 draw in week three, their play at home had been largely disappointing. For some reason, they seem to lack the same energy and intensity that they have on the road.
Friday night, Sky Blue took the field looking slightly more energetic than in other home matches. That might have been because Christy Holly seemed to use a different lineup than before, pushing Raquel Rodriguez up top alongside Tasha Kai while dropping Maya Hayes back to midfielder. However, it appeared as though Sky Blue was playing more of a 4-3-3, with Rodriguez dropped back almost to midfield while Hayes was pushed up higher.
Kelly Conheeney also returned to the starting lineup, her first start since the season opener against the Reign in which she scored the game winner. Conheeney, who Head Coach Christy Holly has been playing with discretion because of a history of injuries, wasted no time getting into the attack. In the 10th minute, Tasha Kai headed the ball to Kelley O’Hara, who crossed the ball in front of the goal, aiming for Conheeney. However, the ball was just out of reach of Conheeney’s right foot and the ball rolled out of danger for the Breakers.
Conheeney again played a pivotal role in the attack when, in the 30th minute Taylor Lytle settled the ball at midfield and fed the ball to Conheeney. Conheeney sent a through ball to Tasha Kai, who raced to the ball with a pair of defenders on her trail, pressuring Kai into taking a shot. The pressure from the defenders from the rear caused Kai to fire off a tentative shot, but it was easily saved by Stout who had come off her line to pressure Kai from the front.
The lone goal of the game came in the 41st minute when Simon switched the field with a cross to Kelley O’Hara, who took the ball into the box. Sending in a low cross, O’Hara hit the body of Boston defender Kasey Kallman, whose momentum sent the deflection past Breaker goalkeeper Libby Stout and into the net. The own goal was the only goal of the night and Boston’s only "goal" of the season. However, it is clearly one that the Breakers desperately wish they could have back.
The second half played out much the same way as the first, with both teams going back and forth with very little to show for it. Sky Blue seemed to be doing a slightly better job of connecting passes and moving the ball up and down the field, but they were once again heavy on turnovers and fouls (13 fouls compared to Boston’s 4; both Tasha Kai and Nikki Stanton were issued yellow cards) but low on shots (9).
Sky Blue’s defense, though, has been the team’s saving grace all throughout the season so far. Kelley O’Hara and captain Christie Rampone shut down the right side of the field while first-year defenders Erica Skroski and Erin Simon held down the left.
Simon, who first really impressed fans in the draw against the Dash, had another stellar performance against Boston. She denied a number of opportunities in the box, breaking up plays and clearing the ball out of danger. Simon’s biggest defensive play of the night came in the 70th minute when the Boston took their first corner kick of the night. Kristie Mewis sent the corner right to Kyah Simon, who headed the ball right at the goal. Simon, who was marking the near post right on the line, managed to get her heel on the ball to flick it just enough for keeper Caroline Stanley to catch. Simon’s standout defensive play earned her the Pine Belt Cars Player of the Match award.
"All credit must go to every single player on this team. They showed their ability on the ball in the first half, and, in the second half, they showed a real mental toughness to see out this result through 93 minutes," Holly said. "We will apply the positives from tonight to our foundation as a team, and the focus now shifts to next week against Western New York."
Sky Blue next starts a two-game road series, traveling first to Rochester, New York, for its rematch against the Western New York Flash. The game will be on Saturday, May 21 at 7 p.m. EST and will be live streamed on the NWSL Soccer YouTube channel.
Sky Blue FC Lineup: Caroline Stanley; Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone (C), Erica Skroski, Erin Simon; Maya Hayes (Shawna Gordon, 78’), Kelly Conheeney (Nikki Stanton, 73’), Sarah Killion, Taylor Lytle; Tasha Kai, Raquel Rodriguez (Kristin Grubka, 83’)
Subs Not Used: Erin Nayler, Ashley Nick, Kim DeCesare, CoCo Goodson
Head Coach: Christy Holly
Boston Breakers Lineup: Libby Stout, Whitney Engen (C), Kasey Kallman, Julie King (Christen Westphal, 68’), Stephanie McCaffrey, Louise Schillgard (Katie Schoepfer, 60’), Kyah Simon, Kristie Mewis, Mollie Pathman, Angela Salem, McCall Zerboni (Stephanie Verdoia, 83’)
Subs Not Used: Jami Kranich, Brittany Radcliffe, Brooke Elby, Rachel Wood
Head Coach: Matt Beard