Perfect Start: Nadim’s Strike Takes Down The Champs

Nadia Nadim celebrate her first goal of the season, courtesy Sky Blue FC

by CHRIS HENDERSON
NWSL Beat Writer

A single moment of brilliance from Nadia Nadim and a stout, organized, and, at times fortunate defensive display saw Sky Blue FC down the champs.

Nadim’s strike, off a smart assist from Meg Morris, was the difference as Sky Blue opened its 2015 season with a surprising, but deserved 1-0 victory against league champions FC Kansas City on their home turf.

“Kansas City really had us on the ropes over the first half hour, but we were fortunate to score a goal in the defining moment of the game,” said Sky Blue Head Coach Jim Gabarra. “Kansas City has a great team. That great goal from Nadia really changed the complexion of the game and enabled us to settle down a little bit.”

The home team collected their 2014 championship rings in a pregame ceremony and then took no time in challenging Sky Blue’s new starting goalkeeper. In the third minute, forward Erika Tymrak forced the first of many difficult saves from Brittany Cameron. The champions then soaked up nearly all the possession for the game’s first 20 minutes, with 2014 US Player of the Year Lauren Holiday again testing Cameron from close range in the 21st minute.

Sky Blue, however, kept shape and continued to play out of the back. They grew into the game and began creating chances of their own. Midfielder Katy Freels forced Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart to push the ball behind with a shot from 30 yards and Nadim nearly scored from the ensuing corner.

In the 29th, high pressure from Kelley O’Hara on a Kansas City throw-in deep in their own end forced a loose ball that Morris one-timed over a defender to the streaking Nadim. The Danish star volleyed a shot from an acute angle that sped past Barnhart. Nadim continues the streak that saw her score six goals in seven games at the tail end of last season — and then dominate the off-season as the team’s priority signing.

Despite the goal, Kansas City continued to hold the balance of the run of play with several chances missed or denied for star striker Amy Rodriguez. The away side’s flexibility frustrated the champs with defensive midfielder Lindsi Cutshall and centerbacks Christie Rampone and rookie Kristin Grubka rotating well to take on attackers.

The halftime break did little to change the dynamics of the game, as Kansas City continued to foray forward, while Sky Blue did their best to defend and keep hold of the ball. O’Hara became increasingly involved pushing up the field from left back and combining with Freels and Morris. In the 67th, the home side brought on speedy rookie Shea Groom and forward Sarah Hagen as they sought to break through. Groom forced a corner immediately and caused problems on both flanks.

The champions were unable to find good chances, however, with most of their shots limited to speculative long distance efforts. Holiday forced another difficult save from Cameron in the 78th minute with a curling shot aimed from the upper left corner. A minute later the keeper left off her line in front of a charging Rodriguez, scooping up the ball, but taking a kick to the stomach in the process.

A yellow card foul on O’Hara during a scrum just outside the 18 gave the home team one final chance in the 90th minute, but Yael Averbuch blasted over.

The victory was a club record sixth straight dating back to last season for Sky Blue. With the champs vanquished, the team returns to New Jersey for their home opener against the Houston Dash on Saturday at Yurcak Field.

Scoring Summary:

29’ Nadia Nadim SBFC

Misconduct Summary:

90’ Kelley O’Hara (Yellow Card)

Lineups:

SBFC: Brittany Cameron, Christie Rampone (Lo’eau LaBonta-83), Kristin Grubka, Lindsi Cutshall, Cami Levin, Meg Morris (Kim DeCesare-90), Katy Freels, Sarah Killion, Kelley O’Hara, Nadia Nadim, Maya Hayes (Nicki Stanton-90)

Substitutes Not Used: A.Bledsoe

FCKC: Nicole Barnhart, Leigh Ann Robinson, Rebecca Moros (Shea Groom-65), Becky Sauerbrunn, Amy LePeilbet, Yael Averbuch, Jen Buczkowski, Lauren Holiday, Erika Tymrak (Sarah Hagen-65), Heather O’Reilly, Amy Rodriguez

Substitutes Not Used: Katelyn Rowland, Liz Bogus, Frances Silva, Domi Richardson, Mandy Laddish


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