Rochester, N.Y. (Wednesday, August 13, 2014) – With the season hanging in the balance, Sky Blue FC (7-8-7, 28 points) forward Nadia Nadim hammered home a hard right-footed shot in the 89th minute on Wednesday night, highlighting a dramatic ending to a 3-2 thriller over the Western New York Flash (8-12-3, 27 points) at Sahlen’s Stadium. With the victory, Sky Blue FC eliminated Western New York from playoff contention while earning its third consecutive victory to keep its own postseason ambitions alive.
“With the way both teams were structured there at the end, the focus was clearly on sending numbers forward into the attack,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra said of the wild finish. “There were a few balls in the second half where we had chances, but the wind would push the ball to the goalkeeper. However, Nadia was persistent and kept after it, and she was rewarded for her efforts. As soon as she touched that ball, I knew it was going to be a goal.”
In the 87th minute, midfielder Katy Freels acquired possession and then danced around the Western New York midfield at the center circle. Once she found some space, Freels hit a perfectly struck through-ball that split the middle of the Flash defense. The beneficiary of the feed was Nadim, who raced onto it before finding herself in a 1v1 situation with Western New York goalkeeper Kelsey Wys. The Danish striker then touched the ball around her to the left side to create some room, and she hammered what would be the game-winning goal into the back of the net.
Counted out by many just a few weeks prior, Gabarra spoke with much pride when he referenced the resolve of his team.
“We have a very strong resilience amongst this group,” he stated. “There are many times during a season where a team can give up and quit. These players have never even thought about giving up. They have quietly continued to work hard and fight until the end. I am very proud of that. There have been many times where things have gone badly or we have not played as well as we know we can, but at no point did these players stop working. Resilience is the proper word.”
These two sides came out aggressively in this match, and that intensity created opportunities on both ends of the field. The 7th minute of play saw an offensive exchange that nearly broke the deadlock, with Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt first taking advantage of a defensive lapse by the Flash on top of the 18-yard box. Schmidt collected a deflection with space, quickly firing a shot towards the frame that was just high of the target.
Western New York then responded on a chance that was created off a run by midfielder Carli Lloyd down the right flank. On the play, Lloyd looked up before serving a ball to the mouth of the goal, where forward Samantha Kerr was awaiting distribution. However, Sky Blue FC netminder Jill Loyden was in perfect position and dove onto the ball before any damage could occur.
Beginning in the 23rd minute, a wild exchange resulted in a 1-1 tally being placed on the scoreboard. From the left flank, Flash midfielder McCall Zerboni fed the ball forward to Abby Wambach in the area just in front of the corner flag. Once gathering the feed, Wambach turned and delivered a pass to a wide-open Adriana Martin in front of the six-yard box, and the Spanish international one-touched a shot into the back of the net before Loyden had a chance to react.
Before the smoke settled, Sky Blue FC quickly countered on the ensuing kickoff.
Once play was resumed, Schmidt immediately sent a ball over the top of the Western New York midfield and onto the feet of a speedy Maya Hayes on the right flank. The New Jersey native then turned and centered a cross to Nadim, who redirected the feed towards the left post to set up a streaking Kelley O’Hara. Without hesitation, O’Hara rewarded her unselfishness by striking the ball home and making the game even at a goal apiece.
After that 1-1 score was taken into the locker rooms at intermission, Sky Blue FC wasted little time in garnering its first lead of the match once the whistle got the second half action underway.
In the 47th minute, Sky Blue FC earned a corner kick that was put into play by Freels from the right flag. On the receiving end of the distribution was O’Hara, who briefly collected before striking a shot towards the target. Wys was able to block the attempt, but Nadim awaited the deflection right in front of her. When it arrived, Nadim fired a ball past Wys that ripped the back netting to make the count 2-1 favor of the visiting side.
As the second half progressed, the intensity increased as the Flash searched for the equalizer. That opportunity then presented itself in the 78th minute when Lloyd stole possession in the midfield and delivered a feed to Wambach. Once gathering the ball with her back to the goal, Wambach hit a pass to the feet of forward Sonia Bermudez. The 73rd minute substitute then collected it before lofting a left-footed chip towards the goal that froze Loyden, and the strike sailed over her head and into the upper 90. After the tally, the score was once again at a stalemate.
With a draw eliminating both teams from playoff contention, the offensive aggression intensified even further as this match headed into the home stretch. After a back-and-forth battle created chances on each end, it would be Sky Blue FC that found its way back on top with the critical 89th minute goal off the right foot of Nadim.
Following the Freels to Nadim tally, Sky Blue FC held onto that 3-2 advantage as the final ticks erased off the clock, and the win was preserved by a late point blank save from Loyden of a Jasmyne Spencer shot inside the penalty area.
Sky Blue FC now heads south to the Maryland SoccerPlex for its next outing, facing the Washington Spirit on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.
To keep up with all of the action as the NWSL season continues to play out, make sure to stay tuned to www.SkyBlueFC.com.
Sky Blue FC vs. Western New York Flash
August 13, 2014 – Sahlen’s Stadium
Sky Blue FC 1 2 3
WNY Flash 1 1 2
23 WNYF S.Kerr (A.Wambach)
24 SBFC K.O’Hara (N.Nadim)
47 SBFC N.Nadim
78 WNYF S.Bermudez
89 SBFC N.Nadim (K.Freels)
SBFC Starting XI: Loyden; Foord, Goodson, Rampone (C), Levin; Nick (Ocampo-84), Schmidt, Freels; O’Hara, Nadim, Hayes (Filigno-75)
Substitutes Not Used: Cameron, Johnson, Kiryu, Stanton, Thompson
WNYF Starting XI: Wys; Edmonds, Taylor, Williamson (Bermudez-73), Zerboni; Barczuk Losada-58), Lloyd, Salem; Kerr, Wambach (C), Adriana (Spencer-81)
Substitutes Not Used: Allen, Haracic, Palmer, Wetzel