Sky Blue FC marches into Saturday’s Women’s Professional Soccer Championship against the Los Angeles Sol playing with a new-found confidence under Interim Player/Coach Christie Rampone. Perhaps more importantly, the players are finally having fun and understanding their collective and individual roles.
“All the girls do know their roles and they know that I am mindful of everybody and of their strengths and it is just whoever we feel like needs to get in the game at the time – but just know their role,” Rampone said. “I feel like everyone buys into the game plan and is excited about the game plan and it shows on the field.”
That game plan has seen Rampone and Assistant Coach Mike Lyons make what some would call questionable changes in the lineup.U.S. international Natasha Kai has come off of the bench as a super-sub and Canadian international Kelly Parker gave way to Australian Collette McCallum. Superstar Heather O’Reilly was even subbed out of Wednesday’s 1-0 Super Semifinal win against Saint Louis in the 63rd minute. Rampone said that O’Reilly was somewhat tired after playing so many matches and she was monitoring her fitness.
But all of these substitutions and changes have worked out to produce exciting, attractive soccer. Finally, it’s a team where every player knows her role and is enjoying the game.
Now, Sky Blue FC takes on a tough and well-rested Los Angeles Sol team that has not played in almost two weeks. While that is great for recovery, it may not be the best situation for the Sol. Los Angeles ended its season in poor form and struggled to connect as a team in its final games. Prior to defeating Boston on a stoppage time penalty kick August 9th in the season finale, Los Angeles was winless in three, including a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars.
Now, the Sol has sat on that less than stellar ending to the season for the past two weeks, relying on training and scrimmages.The question then comes down to this: Will Sky Blue FC be tired after three games in a week, all on the road, or will Los Angeles be rusty?
Realistically, both could happen. Sky Blue FC is dealing with recovering from a game and different flights that put the team in Los Angeles somewhere between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. local time Thursday morning. Los Angeles, is dealing with the exact opposite, but may not be match-fit as a team. Either way, both teams will put up a tough fight.
“You have to give everything you have,” Rampone said. “It’s a mental game and, you know, we’re ready. And I think it’s going to be fun. The team has to go out there with nothing to lose and you know, just enjoy it. The final is what it’s all about. This is what we trained for all season.”
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