August 11, 2010
by Dan Lauletta
Race remains tight with Sky Blue draw
Big Apple Soccer correspondent
PISCATAWAY, NJ—The status of the WPS playoff race is not getting any clearer. Sky Blue FC played the Washington Freedom to a 1-1 draw at Yurcak Field on Wednesday night to keep things tight in the race for the final playoff spot.
|An own goal by Cat Whitehill gave Sky Bkue a 1-1 draw with the Washington Freedom
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Freedom defender Cat Whitehill played Heather O’Reilly’s cross into her own goal for the 80th minute equalizer after Sonia Bompastor gave the Freedom the lead on a sweet finish in the 65th.
The tie puts Sky Blue at 8-8-4, with 22 points, moving them one point ahead of Chicago, who lost to Philadelphia 2-1. Washington is now tied with Chicago for fifth place, with a 5-6-8 record and 21 points.
“Honestly I thought it was one of our best performances all season long,” Sky Blue FC coach Rick Stainton said after running his record as head coach to 1-2-1. “We were able to possess the ball very well and we were able to attack with a purpose.”
Stainton’s side came out the better side and had the better of the chances during the first half hour. A 10th minute cross from O’Reilly forced Ashlyn Harris into a save and the rebound popped out from where no Sky Blue player could get to it for a point blank shot. In the 27th Laura Kalmari took a Kasey White cross and drilled it off the right post. The play nearly spelled the end of the night for Harris, who had her own run-in with the post in her attempt to make the save.
“I thought for sure she was going to have to come off but fortunately she didn’t,” said Abby Wambach, who chastised herself postgame for not doing better with a pair of solid chances.
The first of those chances came near the halftime whistle. The Freedom’s leading goalscorer sprang down the left flank and although her shot was from a tough angle she did little more than roll a harmless ball across the six-yard box. Soon after halftime Lene Mykjaland found Wambach on the right side and she shot high, letting Sky Blue keeper Jenni Branam off the hook.
The Freedom took the lead when Sarah Huffman ran into space on the right side and rolled a cross that slipped all the way to the far post where Bompastor made a world class finish on it.
“She played a great goal into no-man zone where the keeper can’t come out but the defenders are running back, but world class finish right in the upper 90,” defender Meghan Schnur said. “Branam couldn’t do much about it.”
Schnur said she was still sipping some Gatorade after being subbed out for Tasha Kai when she caught the tail end of the play that brought her team back level. Right off the whistle O’Reilly looked for Kalmari in the box and Cat Whitehill, having initially misjudged the play, made an attempt to clear it and put it behind Harris for an own goal.
“I didn’t see much of it because I was looking at our shape behind it,” Stainton admitted. “Obviously we were able to apply some pressure and get in. From what I understand it was an own goal, but I thought it went off of Laura.”
Kalmari later confirmed she did not touch the ball. The own goal was the third for Sky Blue this season—all involving Kalmari—and all three have been for results. The club won both games in Atlanta on own goals, meaning they owe seven of their 22 points (6-8-4) to own goals.
Next up is a Sunday trip to the Boston. Sky Blue FC is 4-0-2 against the Breakers.