Piscataway, N.J. (Wednesday, August 20, 2014) – Sky Blue FC (9-8-7, 34 points) concluded its 2014 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) campaign on a high note on Wednesday night, blanking the visiting Houston Dash (5-16-3, 18) at Yurcak Field, 1-0. An 18th minute goal from defender Lindsi Cutshall was the difference in the contest, with the win matching a franchise record five-game winning streak. The victory also gave Sky Blue FC a winning record on the year, officially finishing just one point shy of the fourth place Washington Spirit (10-9-5, 35 points) on the NWSL Table.
“We were playing well early on this season and creating chances, but we just needed that one goal scorer to take the pressure off the others,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra reflected when asked about the 2014 season. “Things really seemed to balance out over the second half of the year, which certainly was more parallel with our vision. I had faith in this particular group of players, and they rewarded our coaching staff by proving that we were one of the better teams in the league.”
After some good back-and-forth action in the early going of this match-up, Sky Blue FC broke the deadlock in the 18th minute. On the scoring play, captain Sophie Schmidt gathered in the midfield before sending a well-hit ball into the penalty area, where Mexican striker Monica Ocampo one-time a left-footed shot that Houston netminder Bianca Henninger aggressively turned away. Unfortunately for the visiting side, there awaiting the deflection was Cutshall, who immediately hammered home the go-ahead tally for her team.
The Flash nearly got on the board in the 34th minute following a dangerous run from forward Nina Burger through the center of the Sky Blue FC defense, finding herself in a 1v1 situation with goalkeeper Jill Loyden. Following a hard shot off the right foot of Burger, Loyden made an athletic save to knock away the attempt. On the receiving end of her punch-away was Houston striker Tiffany McCarty, but the ensuing shot was short of the near post, keeping the hosts on top of the scoring, 1-0.
During the closing moments of the opening half, both sides created some well-crafted scoring opportunities, requiring stellar saves from both Loyden and Henninger to keep the ball free of the goal.
The second half picked up right where its preceding session had ended, forcing Loyden to immediately stone another point blank shot off the foot of McCarty in the 48th minute. The pace then continued on both ends of the field until the final whistle, and each team created its share of chances.
The Flash aggressively sought the equalizer over the waning moments of the match, nearly finding it for a final time in the 90th minute. With a dangerous ball bouncing around the penalty area, it eventually settled at the top of the 18-yard box. The recipient of the loose ball was Dash forward Stephanie Ochs in space, but her shot sailed high of the crossbar, hanging the final 1-0 tally in favor of Sky Blue FC.
“We were hoping to get more goals, but we are happy to get the win and finish the season in winning form,” Schmidt said after the match. “About halfway through the season, we finally had a wakeup call in that we were not going to make the playoffs by tying or losing.
“Nadia Nadim was a big help when she came in and gave us a spark by scoring some goals for us. We also changed the way we played. We kept the ball moving more and changed possession a lot more, and we finished our chances. It was a much lighter feeling because we started playing with the mentality that we had nothing to lose.”
Sky Blue FC vs. Houston Dash
August 20, 2014 – Yurcak Field
Sky Blue FC 1 0 1
Houston Flash 0 0 0
18 SBFC L.Cutshall
SBFC Starting XI: Loyden, Goodson, Foord, Cutshall, Levin, Nick, O’Hara (Johnson-28), Freels, Schmidt (C), Ocampo (Filigno-45+), Hayes (Thompson-84)
Substitutes Not Used: Cameron, Kiryu, Morris, Stanton
HOU Starting XI: Henninger (McLeod-46), Romero, Engen (C), Toulouse (Souza-60), Diggs, Kyle, McFarlane, Ohai, McCarty, Burger (Henderson-46), Ochs
Substitutes Not Used: All used.
72 SBFC K.Johnson
85 HOU R.Souza