Sky Blue FC survives the heat and Washington, 1-0, to move into playoff spot

leah galton

 by TOM SLATER

This one was about survival for Sky Blue FC.

The heat was oppressive. The bench was short. And they were facing the top-team in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) at Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field.

But a first-half goal from (who else?) Leah Galton proved to hold up behind a bend-but-never break defense led by Christie Rampone and the youngest defense in the NWSL. The win was the Sky Blue’s third straight — its longest winning streak in nearly two  years.

The three points put Sky Blue FC (6-4-4, 22 points) in the fourth playoff spot (at least temporarily), edging ahead of Chicago Red Stars by a point. Chicago played Houston last night but the game was delayed by storms and began just as the Sky Blue FC match ended.

The loss also prevents Washington  (8-3-2, 26 points) from claiming first for themselves. They remain tied with idle Portland (7-2-5).

Both teams were playing without its international players but Sky Blue were missing two important midfield players in rookie Raquel Rodriguez and Sarah Killion. Rodriguez played in Kansas City last night for Costa Rica again the United States. She appeared at Yurcak Field about an hour before game time but was not on the team sheet. Killion was a late scratch due to injury.

Nikki Stanton and Shawna Gordon filled in and did a great job. Stanton hadn’t started a game since May and Gordon since June. Both teamed well together and formed a nice duo that not only tightened the middle of the field, they provide the outlet enough times to take some pressure off the Sky Blue backline.

Galton continued her impressive rookie season and got the game-winner in the 25th minute. Goalkeeper Caroline Casey, with her second home shutout this year, got the play started with a fine distributed to Erin Simon on the left touchline. Simon took one touch and found a sprinting Galton with room behind defender Whitney Church. Galton sped in on goal with central defender Megan Oyster too deep to cut off Galton. The British international got off a bad angle shot that was past Kelsey Wys for her third goal of the season.

Tasha Kai nearly doubled the lead less than a minute later. The Hawaiian striker got an outlet pass from Catherine Zimmerman and found herself alone against Wys at the top of the box. Kai slotted a shot to the right post but Wys got her fingers on it for a corner kick.

There were a couple of nervous moments during the night. Christine Nairn got off a low corner kick that Estelle Johnson back-heeled but Casey kicked away the shot before Simon cleared for good.

In the second half, Cheyna Williams used a spin move to leave a pair of Sky Blue defenders sprawled on the ground. She got her shot off but it was deflected by Kristin Grubka and bounced off the right post. The ball bounded to Joanna Lohman with an easy chance to bring Washington level. But the sure goal was deflected by Erica Skroski on the goal line as the rookie from Rutgers used her hip to deflect it.

Both teams will meet again Saturday at the SoccerPlex in Maryland for the final match of their four-game set in 2016.

Following next weekend’s matches, the NWSL will take nearly a month-long break for the Olympics.

  • Peter smith

    FYI youngest back line has the oldest and youngest American players next to each other. Other than Andrea of the Dash Simon is the youngest player in the league