Sky Blue keep eyes on postseason against Boston

boston preview

by TOM SLATER

Sky Blue FC’s ability to build some momentum will meet up with the Boston Breakers’s ability to put a crushing loss behind them.

The two teams meet Sunday at 5 p.m. at Boston’s Jordan Field in a Week 13 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) fixture.

Sky Blue (4-4-4) has been playing good enough to stay in the race for one of the four playoff spots. Over their past six matches they are 2-1-3 and have been steadily moving up the NWSL table. Depending on the results from Saturday night, a victory could leave Sky Blue tied for the fourth playoff spot. A draw between Chicago and Orlando coupled with a Sky Blue win would leave all three tied with 19 point. A victory by either side would leave Sky Blue a point behind the winner.

But its’s too early to start playing that game. “We are looking forward to getting on the field against Boston on Sunday,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “Our mindset is focused on pushing ourselves into a top four position and to keep building upon the good performances of the previous few weeks. We know Boston presents a very good challenge for us, but we are confident that we will get a positive result if we play to our true ability.”

Their true ability has been solid, blue-collar efforts featuring an organized backline and an opportunistic offense. The veteran Christie Rampone has been the strength holding the defense together. With Kelley O’Hara gone to the Olympics for a few months, she will be paired with 2nd year central defender Kristin Grubka, rookie Erica Skroski and newcomer Erin Simon.

Leah Galton, another rookie, has breathed life into the attack over the last month, teaming with Taylor Lytle, Raquel Rodriguez and Sarah Killion to form a solid if unspectacular midfield Tasha Kai will again run up front. Sam Kerr gave the Sky Blue fans a glimpse of what might be, but she is gone too soon as well, getting ready for the Olympics. Look for Maya Hayes or Catherine Zimmerman to fill in. Caroline Stanley is again out with an injury and rookie Caroline Casey will fill in. Casey recorded her first professional shutout last week against Houston.

Boston is on the other side of the spectrum. They are the league’s worst team, reaching a historic low as far as road play goes — having not won a game outside of Boston since 2014.  Last week, the bad news only got worse after teasing their fans for about 80 minutes. At Orlando, Mollie Pathman scored her first NWSL goal in the fifth minutes and then held on until the last minutes of the match. Kristen Edwards was fouled outside the box by Brooke Elby — which resulted in a red card foul. Edwards bent her kick around the wall and just inside the far post to bring the Pride level. Minutes later, an errant clear by Boston gave Edwards another chance. She chipped goalkeeper Jami Kranich for the winner on the game’s final play.

With that, the Breakers became the first NWSL team to lose a game they were leading after 85 minutes.

And on top of that, Pathman retired two days before this week’s game.

Of course, nothing ever comes easy for Sky Blue. Historically, Sky Blue FC leads the overall NWSL series with Boston, 5-2-3, but the Breakers do hold a 1-2-1 home advantage, so expect a close game. The two teams met two months ago in New Jersey with the home team winning on an own goal.

It may come down to that.