Moving up: Sky Blue comes back against Boston for 3-2 victory

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By TOM SLATER

It wasn’t pretty but it was a huge win for Sky Blue FC.

After falling behind to the Boston Breakers early, Sky Blue stormed back for a 3-2 victory in Boston. This marked the first back-to-back wins for Sky Blue this season and vaulted them into the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) playoff conversation. Sky Blue (5-4-4, 19 points) moved into sole possession of fifth place, just two points behind Chicago and a point ahead of Orlando.

After Boston (1-11-1, 3 points) scored first, Sarah Killion and Leah Galton scored in the first half to give Sky Blue the lead for good. Defender Erica Skroski got her first professional goal in the 74th minute, which proved to be the winning goal when Julie King scored for Boston in the 85th minute. It marked the first time this season Sky Blue scored three goals in a match.

Knowing they could move up with a victory, Sky Blue came out sluggish while Boston got off to a great start – scoring in just the fourth minute, which was very similar to last week’s Breakers’ loss to Orlando. Stephanie McCaffrey started the play with a quick run up the left side, cutting inside and sending a ball across the goal. Eunice Beckmann was able to get two shots off. One deflected off Kristin Grubka and the other battled away by goalkeeper Caroline Casey. The third rebound, however, did in Sky Blue as Angela Salem knocked it for her first goal in three NWSL seasons.

Boston kept up the pressure in the first 20 minutes of the match and nearly doubled their lead. Stephanie Verdoia had an open look off a cross from Louise Schillgard but headed it wide.

New Jersey had trouble putting together passes and was offside three times in the early going, trying to send balls over the Breakers’ defense. But in the 27th minute, Galton got them going. She received ball from Raquel Rodriguez and cut inside from left to right quickly, forcing Christen Westphal to foul her inside the box. The calm and collected Killion stepped up and slotted the penalty kick to the right, beating Jami Kranich for the tying goal. It was her third of the season — all on penalty kicks.

Ten minutes later, Galton put Sky Blue ahead by knocking in a serve from in close. Rodriguez lost by a ball in midfield but quickly won it back and turned upfield. She hit Tasha Kai on the run and the Hawaiian striker served to far post, twisting the pass inside the goal. Galton sprinted to the post and knocked the ball over the line. Television speculation was that the ball may have been going in anyway, but the English international left no doubt.

Just over an hour into the match, Galton and Rodriguez had back-to-back open shots but the former was blocked and the latter saved by Kranich.

Sky Blue sealed the victory in the 74th minute when Skroski, the rookie from Rutgers, headed home the goal at the end of a short corner taken by Killion. Killion slide the corner to Taylor Lytle who sent one far post. The ball was headed by Grubka to the middle where Skroski nodded it past Kranich.

King gave the Breakers new life in the 85th minute by heading in a free kick from Schillgard but could not come up with the tying goal.

The game was the last professional soccer match for Boston defender Mollie Pathman. Pathman, who scored her first goal last week against Orlando, is leaving soccer to pursue a medical career. Pathman played two and a half seasons for the Breakers after being selected in the third round (No. 23 overall) of the 2014 NWSL College Draft. The former Duke University star appeared in 53 games (50 starts) for the Breakers. In 2015, Pathman was one of only two Breakers to play every minute of every match (1,800 minutes), which ranked her tied for first in the NWSL.

The Breakers also announced before the game they have signed England forward Natasha Dowie. She will join the team after her paperwork clears.

Dowie, 28, played two years under current Breakers head coach Matt Beard while Beard managed Liverpool Ladies FC. In her three seasons at Liverpool (2012-2015), Dowie scored 45 goals in 42 games. She was named the FA Players Player of the Year in 2013, the same year she led Liverpool to its first FA Women’s Super League title.

Prior to the signing, the Breakers traded their lowest second-round pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft to the Western New York Flash for an international roster spot for the remainder of the 2016 season.