Sky Blue falls flat in 3-1 loss to Chicago Red Stars

chicago

by TOM SLATER

With everything in front of them, Sky Blue FC couldn’t have picked a worse game to come out a little flat. And the Chicago Red Stars couldn’t have picked a better night to have one of their best games of the season.

The result was a 3-1 Chicago victory in front of a crowd just above 3,000 at Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field. The victory gave the Red Stars solid footing as the fourth playoff participant in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) playoff race. And for Sky Blue FC, it was a step back.

Chicago is now 8-4-4 with 28 points while Sky Blue is 6-6-4 and holds at 22 points. Seattle (6-5-5, 23 points) moved ahead of Sky Blue with a 3-1 win over Portland Thorns FC. And on top of the that, they might have lost Kelley O’Hara, just back from the Rio Olympics, after she was cleated on her heel in the second half. The extent of the injury was not known immediately after the game.

Chicago was the aggressor early as United States international Christen Press and newly acquired Stephanie McCaffrey were making dangerous runs and finding open spots in the Sky Blue FC backline. Press had two dangerous shots in the first half hour, one volleying straight at goalkeeper Caroline Stanley, another deflected by Christie Rampone.

McCaffrey, obtained in a trade from Boston before the break, made Stanley go quick to her left on a 25-yard shot in the 27th minute. Four minutes later, McCaffrey put the Red Stars ahead with an odd goal. She ran with the ball about 25 yards down the right side and launched a bad-angle ball that was half-cross and half-shot. The ball twisted over Stanley’s head as she backpedaled. The ball struck the far post and settled in the net for a 1-0 lead.

Sky Blue began to apply more pressure and nearly equalized in the 39th minute. Taylor Lytle floated a ball into Tasha Kai. The Hawaiian couldn’t get a shot off but the ball fell to Sarah Killion, who blasted a shot at Alyssa Naeher. The United States international got a hand up but the ball bounded toward the empty net. Defender Arin Gilliland bicycled it out in front of the net after it appeared to cross the goal line. It was unclear on the televised replays whether the ball crossed the line.

Kai and Julie Johnston both slid for the ball and it bounded to Killion again. She hit another shot that Naeher deflected to Kai. Kai tried to chip the ball but Gilliland made another incredible save, heading it out of danger — but right to Sam Kerr. Kerr appeared to score but Killion was ruled offside.

Sky Blue kept the pressure up for the equalizer in the second half with  O’Hara coming on after the halftime break. O’Hara made her presence felt almost immediately but springing Leah Galton on the left wing in the 51st minute. Galton made a strong run down the flank and served strong to the center of the goal where Kai was waiting. She headed the ball off the crossbar and then headed the rebound over the bar.

Chicago ended all Sky Blue comeback hopes with a pair of goals in a seven-minute span. Press scored after a poor clear by Stanley kept the ball in. Vanessa DiBernardo found Press running through the left side and easily put it past the Sky Blue keeper to double their lead. Press nearly scored again in the last five minutes, going in alone on Stanley but the keeper made a strong save.

Kerr added a cosmetic goal in extra time, putting in a serve from Galton just before time expired.


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