Good things come to those who wait. Sky Blue FC and Nadia Nadim are living testaments of that phrase. Nadim is Sky Blue’s newest acquisition, but she has also been someone who the National Women’s Soccer League team has been eagerly awaiting for a long time.
Nadim comes to the U.S.A. as a Denmark citizen, where she played for the women’s national team. At the club level, Nadim plays in the Elitedivisionen, the highest level of competition for women’s soccer in Denmark. She has played for Fortuna Hjørring since 2012, and the team won the league championship this past season.
Nadim comes to Sky Blue “on loan,” which is a rule in soccer that allows a player to temporarily perform for another team. In essence, during a loan, a player can play for two teams, but one team is that player’s primary home, and the other team is borrowing that player’s services for an undetermined amount of time. (According to Fortuna Hjørring’s website, she is on a two month NWSL loan.)
But Sky Blue is glad they have Nadim on the team, and her last two games explain why. Nadim’s NWSL debut came via a substitution in the second half of Sky Blue’s 5-0 loss to FC Kansas City. Despite the lopsided score, Nadim provided several glimpses of excellence. With two weeks of rest before the team’s next game (July 20 against the Washington Spirit), Nadim would have even more time to become acclimated with the team.
Her first official start came against the Spirit, and she did not disappoint. Playing up front alongside forward Kelley O’Hara, Nadim was an immediate spark plug offensively for Sky Blue. Her frenetic and high-octave style was obvious from the first kick, as she used her speed to get loose from Spirit defenders. “It’s nice to have threats from all ends,” O’Hara said after the game.
Nadim was clicking early with O’Hara, and that resulted in the game’s first goal.
“Nadia got free and was going down the right side,” O’Hara said of her first goal. “[Ashlyn Harris, Washington goalkeeper] started to come out, and I was wide open in the middle and called for the ball. [Nadia] laid the ball perfectly and it was just a little knock-in.”
Then, in the 81st minute, Nadim was on the receiving end of O’Hara when the two executed a smooth give-and-go. It was the type of play O’Hara and Nadim developed during the two weeks between games.
“This past week,” O’Hara said, “we went into practice and our whole game plan was to work on attack every single day. It obviously paid off.”
At the end of 90 minutes, Nadim had put on a show for the New Jersey crowd. Sky Blue won 4-2 and Nadim finished with a goal and an assist, although her stat-line does not fully explain how critical she was in the win. As one fellow photographer said in the Yurcak Field press box, Nadim’s performance was transformative for Sky Blue. Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra thought similarly.
“She’s looked dangerous,” Gabarra said after the Spirit win. “She bought the best out of Kelley and Sophie [Schmidt] and Katy [Freels] and Maya [Hayes]. She did a great job for us.”
Nadim’s addition is obviously welcomed, but she may be too little too late for Sky Blue (4-4-7, 7th place in the standings, 19 points) with the NWSL season more than halfway finished. Although Nadim was important for Sky Blue in their last victory, her play alone could prove fruitless for the team with just five games left in the season.
Nonetheless, Nadim has answered the bell so far for Sky Blue.
“She’s a quality forward, and that’s our biggest whole in this team all year,” Gabarra said. “The biggest reason for us not getting results is not having a true goalscorer, a true forward who has really put their chances away.”
O’Hara scores her goal off of a pass from Nadim.
Nadim scores her first goal and matches it with a unique celebration.
all video footage courtesy of the NWSL on YouTube