SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Sky Blue FC defeated the Boston Breakers 3-2 on Wednesday at Dilboy Stadium in the first preseason match-up of two National Women’s Soccer League teams. Kelley O’Hara, who started at forward, led the scoring for Sky Blue with two goals in the 23rd and 65th minutes and Sophie Schmidt had the game-winner in the 71st minute. Heather O’Reilly (36’) and Lianne Sanderson (70’) had the two goals for Boston.
The match started off sloppy, with turnovers from both sides. But eventually the teams settled into the game and the Breakers began to dominate possession and got some looks on goal. Even though the Breakers looked to be in control, O’Hara opened up the scoring for Sky Blue FC in the 23rd minute when she was left alone on the left side of the box. She took what looked like a cross-turned-shot at the net and the chipped ball over diving rookie goalkeeper Colleen Boyd.
The Breakers continued to apply pressure after the O’Hara goal and eventually got the equalizer in the 36th minute. Bianca D’Agostino, now playing at left back for the Breakers, got off a great feed up to Heather O’Reilly, who calmly put the ball away to tie the game. Sky Blue got off a few more looks in the last 10 minutes of the half, but Boston was able to hold them off to head into half at 1-1. Breakers coach Lisa Cole was happy that O’Reilly scored in the game.
“I think it was good,” Cole said. “I think it was good for her, not only for us, but for what she’s doing with the national team. You can see her evolving her game. I’m really excited about what she’s doing, not just being a winger that takes the ball in line, but also being able to come inside, to be able to play on the left and the right. I just think that her game’s evolving, which is neat. With somebody with all of her experience, she could kind of settle in, but she’s really taking on the challenge of keeping [to] evolving her game.”
The second half started off with a much quicker pace and O’Hara hit the crossbar for the second time in the game right off the bat in the 47th minute. In the 65th minute, Sky Blue earned a corner kick. Danesha Adams took the kick and got it to O’Hara, who scored on a nice header to put Sky Blue back up, 2-1.
O’Hara has now scored in two straight preseason games and is on a bit of a scoring streak.
“It feels good,” O’Hara said. “I haven’t done that in a while, since college. It’s fun. Jim [Gabarra, Sky Blue FC coach] wants me up top, and that’s where he’s planning on playing me at the moment. It’s been working out!”
It didn’t take long for the Breakers to equalize this time. Five minutes later, O’Reilly got off a cross into the box to a waiting Lianne Sanderson who put it away.
“It was a great build up play,” Sanderson said. “Sydney played it out to HAO, and I just made the run to the front post. When you play with great players it feels good, because you know if you make the run it’s going to come to you. And obviously the way the ball came in, I just had to tap it into the back of the net.”
And, less than five minutes later, Sky Blue would go back on top — and stay there — after the game-winner was scored by Sophie Schmidt with an assist from Taylor Lytle.
Overall, the Breakers felt positive with the game, but they also know there is a lot to work on – namely finishing chances in front of the goal, and getting the back line on the same page.
“They took advantage of some of our key miscues, and I thought we created some opportunities and didn’t take them well, so both of those things need to improve,” Cole said. “We need to make a few less mistakes, and make sure that they don’t’ get the opportunity to capitalize on them. And we have to capitalize when we get our opportunities.”
Notably, the members of the Breakers backline are mostly adjusting to new roles.
“We’ve got a backline that’s never played together before,” Cole said. “Bianca [D’Agostino] is new to being a defender, although she’s played there in parts during her career, it’s not her traditional position. Cat [Whitehill] and Kia [McNeill] are both great defenders, but they’re also used to leading their own line, and so they’re having to work together. And [Rhian] Wilkinson has had a big adjustment with us because the way she plays for Canada and the way we want her to play is a lot different. So today, for me, I thought part of that was just us feeling each other out.”
The players are also excited and enthusiastic for the new league to get underway. Christie Rampone, defender for Sky Blue FC and the US women’s national team, sounded optimistic for the future of the NWSL.
“It’s exciting, it’s [women’s professional soccer] still around,” Rampone said. “It’s not going away, so it obviously means something. We’ll put our best foot forward again to try to make this league work. I think with US Soccer’s support and backing, I think it’s got longevity in it. But, it’s going to take time like anything else. And I think they’re starting it right, starting a little bit slower, and work from there. Everyone’s got to be committed and I think this time around, I think we have the right people in place.”
Preseason will continue for two more weeks before the inaugural NWSL game in Overland Park, Kan., in a match between FC Kansas City and the Portland Thorns FC on Saturday, April 13. The Breakers will begin their season at home in Somerville, Mass. on Sunday, April 14, against the Washington Spirit. Sky Blue FC will also begin play on April 14 at home in Piscataway, N.J. against the Western New York Flash.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1 – O’Hara was dangerous at forward for Sky Blue. She had two impressive goals in the game as well as a number of shots that hit the crossbar.
2 – The Breakers defense struggled. For the most part, members of the back line are all in new roles, and they need to find a way to work together this season.
3 – Adrian Leon could be a fun player to watch for Boston. The young forward out of Canada has a lot of speed and can create some chances for the Breakers.
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