December 22, 2011
THE YEAR'S BEST -- NO. 9
Late-season collapse grounds Sky Blue
So close, yet so far.
|Coach Jim Gabarra watched his Sky Blue FC team squander a WPS playoff spot.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
That defined Sky Blue FC's season.
The club needed only one measily point in its final three matches of the year to book a spot in the Women's Professional Soccer playoffs, but it could not get over the hump, dropping those three encounters.
What made the team's whimper of a finish so excruciating is that Sky Blue was in third place -- out of six teams -- with three games remaining.
But the time the dust cleared, Sky Blue was on the outside looking in, finishing in fifth place with a 5-9-4 record and 19 points.
The club started Aug. 3 in third place with a 5-6-4 mark. On that night, Sky Blue dropped a 3-2 decision to magicJack. Twice Sky Blue battled back from one-goal deficits. Twice Abby Wambach gave magicJack leads and twice Sky Blue striker Einola Aluko equalized. But Megan Rapinoe connected in the 86th minute to snap a 2-2 tie. Sky Blue still led the Boston Breakers by three points for the last playoff spot.
In its penultimate game on Aug. 7, it appeared Sky Blue was going to reach the post season. For almost 89 minutes, despite playing a player down for nearly 41 of those minutes, it looked like they might clinch that spot. It didnít happen, however, as Lianne Sandersonís last-minute goal gave the Philadelphia Independence a 2-1 win at Leslie Quick Stadium.
Sandersonís goal was a heartbreaker for a Sky Blue defense against a defense that had been playing shorthanded since the 49th minute, when center back Carrie Dew received her second yellow card of the match and was ejected. The victory puts Philly (11-3-3) level with the Flash at 36 points, but Western New York still ha a game in hand.
In its regular-season finale on Aug. 14, Sky Blue found a new way to close. Instead of giving up a late goal, this time the team allowed the Boston Breakers' Lauren Cheney to score the first of her two goals only 14 seconds into the match. Sky Blue never recorded as it suffered a 2-0 defeat in Boston.
Sky Blue and the Breakers finished with 5-9-4 records, but Boston advanced due to head-to-head goal differential.
"Obviously, it is a setback when you go into a game where you need to prevent the other team from scoring, and you give up a goal in the first minute," Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra said . "Then they got a decent bounce, and we found ourselves down 2-0 and having to chase the game."
Tomorrow: Story No. 8