In a fashion that would make any magician proud, Sky Blue FC pulled a true rabbit out of an improbable-looking hat, recording a 1-1 draw against the Seattle Reign. Buoyed by a penalty kick score from Nadia Nadim in the 90th minute, Sky Blue overcame offensive deficiencies to leave their home fans (somewhat) appeased on a cool night at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey.
The hectic moments leading up to Nadim’s goal — her second on the season — served as an exclamation point to an otherwise back-and-forth performance from both sides. The scoring sequence began in the 88th minute with Sky Blue trailing 1-0.
A corner kick setup from Sky Blue’s Sarah Killion created a frenzy in front of Seattle’s goal, resulting in several point-blank stops by Haley Kopmeyer, Seattle’s goalkeeper. However, the third shot attempt from Sky Blue hit the hand of Seattle’s Jessica Fishlock, who was standing on the goal line. Fishlock was eventually given a red card for a handball infraction, teeing up a game-tying penalty kick opportunity for Sky Blue striker Nadia Nadim.
The Danish forward drilled it left as Kopmeyer stepped right.
“I tried to concentrate and focus [leading up to the PK attempt],” Nadim said postgame. “I told myself, ‘You have to score. You have to get the goal.’ ”
The match was a stalemate until Seattle finally broke through at 76 minutes. The score came from Lauren Barnes, who released a hard strike that — despite remaining on the ground — slipped past several defenders en route to sneaking inside the near post, just out the reach of diving Sky Blue goaltender Brittany Cameron. It was a costly mistake for Sky Blue.
“The ball can’t travel through a whole team,” said Sky Blue head coach Jim Gabarra following the match, “regardless of how well it’s struck.”
Barnes’ goal did not, however, correctly reflect Cameron’s performance. Seattle could have undoubtedly scored two or three more goals if not for Cameron’s plethora of impressive saves, from point-blank stops to leaping corner kick grabs. Furthermore, Sky Blue’s defensive line held up for the majority of the match, a promising sign considering the team was without veteran defenders Caitlin Foord, Kelley O’Hara, and Christie Rampone. All three are with their respective national teams for the 2015 Women’s World Cup (the latter two playing for Team USA). Additionally, Rampone serves as Team USA’s captain — and Sky Blue’s.
“They’re not here for a while and we’ve got to move on without them,” Cameron said about losing several of the team’s important players. “Everyone’s responsibility changes. Now [without the leaders], others have to step up. We’ve got to bounce back.”
Nevertheless, Sky Blue’s draw against Seattle is a confidence-boosting game for the team; a solid outcome against a solid foe.
“It was an important psychological shift to get the draw,” said Gabarra. “We’ve certainly been a tough teem to beat and we’ve battled every game.”
Next, Sky Blue looks for a rematch at Washington against the Spirit on May 16th.
[GIFs from NWSL on YouTube]