Sky Blue FC (2-2-1, 7 points) battled a tough Boston Breakers (0-5-0, 0 points) side for 93 minutes on Friday night, claiming a hard-fought 1-0 result in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action at Yurcak Field. Defender Erin Simon was named Pine Belt of Lakewood Player of the Match accolades.
“Obviously, we are happy with the result here tonight,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “We learned some lessons last week and wanted to make sure that we did not allow what went down there to happen again. All credit must go to every single player on this team. They showed their ability on the ball in the first half, and, in the second half, they showed a real mental toughness to see out this result through 93 minutes. We will apply the positives from tonight to our foundation as a team, and the focus now shifts to next week against Western New York.”
Sky Blue FC had its first good opportunity in the 10th minute of this encounter, created on a series that began on top of the penalty area. Forward Tasha Kai laid a header to an overlapping Kelley O’Hara on her right side, and the U.S. international then crossed a ball that was just beyond the extended left foot of midfielder Kelly Conheeney.
In the 30th minute, Sky Blue FC found itself with a nice chance after midfielder Taylor Lytle collected in the center circle. She then fed a ball for Conheeney, who was able to split the Breakers back line for a racing Kai. The striker quickly gathered and turned towards the goal, delivering a hard strike on frame that Boston netminder Libby Stout was able to gather.
The deadlock was eventually broken in the 41st minute, after O’Hara acquired possession on top of the box and darted towards the right side of the area. She then fired a ball towards Conheeney and midfielder Sarah Killion on the far post. Breakers defender Kasey Kallman tried to make a play on the ball, but it deflected off her and into the back of the net for an own goal. With the tally, Sky Blue FC took a 1-0 advantage into the locker rooms at intermission.
Sky Blue FC defenders continued their stellar job of protecting the posts on corner kicks on Friday night, with a Boston try in the 70th minute being the latest example. After a ball was centered for Breakers striker Kyah Simon, she fired it towards the near post, but Sky Blue FC defender Erin Simon was there to put just enough of a flick on it to keep it out of the goal. Netminder Caroline Stanley then cleaned it up from there.
The final 20 minutes of regulation and additional three in stoppage time provided intense competition from both sides, with the Sky Blue FC defense buckling down to limit the opportunities for Boston. The New Jersey club remained well-connected to close down any gaps, and some strategic substitutions from Holly proved to be the right recipe to finish off a hard-fought victory. When the final whistle was blown, Sky Blue FC was rewarded with a critical three points.
Stanley recorded the clean slate in the fixture, her second shutout in three appearances this season.