Pearce Returns as Sky Blue Looks to Rebound

rampone 2016

By TOM SLATER 

imagesizecacheurlThere were many takeaways from Sky Blue’s loss against Washington last weekend, but one stood out: Has any team missed a player more than Sky Blue has missed central defender and captain Christie Pearce?

The first clue was the final score: Washington Spirit 4, Sky Blue 3.

With Pearce sitting out her second game under the National Women’s Soccer League’s concussion protocol the Sky Blue backline was the responsibility of young and inexperienced players. Two rookies — Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman — two second-year players — Erin Simon and Erica Skroski — and a rookie goalkeeper — Kailen Sheridan. And the Spirit’s Francisco Ordega, the league’s player of the week, took full advantage with two goals, an assist and a shot that led to an own goal.

“We didn’t get caught so much in transition, we made basic defensive mistakes,” Sky Blue Coach Christy Holly said. “It’s not liked we overattacked and got caught. The players were in the right position, they just didn’t defend. We have to do a better job.

“If you ever needed an illustration of how important Christie Pearce is, it was that game. I can say if she was on the field, none of those goals would have been scored. The things she brings to the field — the awareness, the game experience and the ability to make everyone around her better — we didn’t have.”

The good news for Sky Blue (1-2-1, 4 points) is that Pearce has been training and is available for Saturday’s game against the Houston Dash (2-2-0, 6) at BBVA Compass Stadium (Lifetime, kickoff scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern).

Also returning for Sky Blue are midfielders Daphne Corboz and Raquel Rodriguez, both of whom missed last week’s match. Kelley O’Hara, however, will miss the game to attend her cousin’s wedding.

Houston has also been shorthanded. The United States international Morgan Brian played for 20 minutes in last week’s 2-0 loss to Chicago, her first minutes in two months. The Brazilian midfielder Andressa has been out since tweaking a hamstring in Week 1. And Carli Lloyd is in England completing her season with Manchester City. She is expected to miss two more Houston matches.

Sky Blue midfielder Sarah Killion is the team’s and league’s top goal scorer with three. She scored two against in the Spirit, including her first goal from open play in two-plus seasons.

“It’s too early for a must-win game,” Holly said. “There’s still 20 games left — that’s 60 points out there. But we want to start showing the kind of team we can be.”