Sky Blue Fails to Hold Early Lead in Loss at Chicago

christie rampone and christen press

By TOM SLATER

sky blue logoThe script was looking so familiar for Sky Blue. An early goal, a hearty defense and some key goalkeeping had the club ready to break its 10-game winless streak against Chicago and vault into second place in the National Women’s Soccer League table.

Then the script was flipped in a four-minute sequence in the middle of the second half.

Chicago scored twice to turn a 1-0 Sky Blue lead into a 2-1 loss in the final game of Week 10.

The win gives Chicago (6-2-2, 20 points) a bit of breathing room in second place, four points ahead of Sky Blue (5-5-1, 16). Third-place Sky Blue is one point ahead of Portland.

The victory was even more important for the Red Stars who play four consecutive road games, a stretch that ends against Sky Blue on July 15. The loss was also crucial for Sky Blue who now face Orlando at home Wednesday and travel to North Carolina to face the first-place Courage on Saturday.

“We are very disappointed in the outcome of this game,” Sky Blue Coach Christy Holly said. “We played fairly well in the first half and created multiple opportunities, but we made too many poor decisions on the ball in the second half. This was not a performance that matches our ability. Now we just have to put it behind us and make sure we give our fans in New Jersey something to cheer about on Wednesday night.”

Trailing by 1-0, Chicago came out strong in the second half, forcing the issue in the midfield and tied the score just past the hour mark. Erika Skroski, back from an injury, cleared the ball from the back into the midfield. Sky Blue’s Sarah Killion and Chicago’s Vanessa DiBernardo battled for it, but the Red Star won it and with two quick touches to her right, she was able to bend a shot into the upper left corner.

Four minutes later, Sofia Huerta hit the game-winner. Defender Casey Short made a run up the left wing and squared a short pass inside to Huerta who slotted it home.

Sky Blue pressed in the final 20 minutes but could never connect the final pass.

Sky Blue scored early for the second straight game. After Mackenzie Meehan, earning her first NWSL start, forced a corner kick in the third minute by not allowing the Chicago defense to play a ball out. Taylor Lytle served a corner kick to the top of the penalty area just near the corner. Madison Tiernan headed the ball inside the near post for her first professional goal and gave Sky Blue the lead.

Meehan and Tiernan played because Sky Blue needed to rest some players facing three games in seven days — including two on the road. Kelley O’Hara, the United States international, did not play and the English midfielder Leah Galton is still nursing a leg injury.