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Rampone goal, PKs highlight wild night at Yurcak

Christie Rampone scored her first pro club goal in Sky Blue FC's 1-1 draw with Portland Thorns FC on Saturday. (Photo Copyright Todd Green/Sky Blue FC)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Can a goalkeeper really goad an opponent into missing a penalty just with her daunting demeanor? Christine Sinclair thinks so.

“We have so much confidence in Nadine (Angerer). She puts fear into the penalty shot taker,” Sinclair said after the Thorns walked out of Yurcak Field with a 1-1 draw against Sky Blue. Kelley O’Hara fired wide on a stoppage time penalty. “The person taking the spot kick knows that they need to place it perfectly. Hopefully that put a little extra pressure on Kelley.”

“My thought was that she’s going to miss just because Nadine’s in net,” Allie Long said, drawing laughter from Sinclair. “Even though Kelley’s great and I know she’s super confident, it’s just Nadine.” It was Long who made good on the Thorns’ penalty to beat Jillian Loyden and equalize for the Thorns 15 minutes earlier.

“She faked me out,” Loyden admitted. “She opened up her hip and then closed it off last second. She’s good. She’s deceptive like that. I’ll have her next time.”

The central figure in the penalty kick frenzy was clearly O’Hara. She unintentionally, and harmlessly, handled the ball in Loyden’s penalty area to put Long at the spot in the 75th minute. Then in stoppage time after the Thorns cleared out a corner, O’Hara got the ball and smashed a shot that may have concussed Nikki Marshall had she not protected herself. No matter, another penalty was called and O’Hara stepped forward to give Sky Blue a late lead.

“Kelley’s really not our penalty kick taker,” Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra said, adding that Sophie Schmidt and Katy Freels would have normally been the top two choices. “But I think she was anxious to kind of redeem herself after the first penalty. And she kind of created that one.”

O’Hara, who was injured much of 2013 when she split time between forward and left back, remains in search of her first Sky Blue goal.

On the other side, Long is not necessarily the Thorns’ regular taker either. The club took three in 2013, two by Sinclair and another by Alex Morgan. Long was on the field each time.

“There’s a group of us on the team who are comfortable taking them,” Sinclair, who scored the first ever Thorns goal from a spot kick last April, said.

“Whoever’s feeling it at the time,” Long said. “We’re all not selfish, whoever wants it. That’s the best thing, when you’re confident and you want to take it that’s kind of who we go with.”

Postgame, Sinclair backed Long for the PK-taking duties.

“Allie’s been on fire all preseason. She has so much confidence right now.”

The penalties and the frenetic ending overshadowed the match’s opening goal, scored by Christie Rampone. On the day Rampone and Karina LeBlanc became the first two players (out of a possible three, the currently pregnant Shannon Boxx being the other) to appear in all eight U.S. women’s professional seasons, Rampone finally nudged ahead of LeBlanc in career goals. That is to say Rampone — 13 years and  has one while LeBlanc, a goalkeeper, has none.

“I don’t think I scored a pro goal,” a laughing Rampone said. “National team yes.” Rampone was a scoring machine when she played at Monmouth College before converting to her more familiar defender role. Saturday’s goal will not tempt Gabarra to return her to forward. It started with a Freels corner that Schmidt flicked far post, where it hit the woodwork. Rampone was there and it more or less found its way off her leg and in. “It kind of just hit off me and went in. It was a fun moment, but then it’s kind of back to business.”

The Thorns now head home to open Providence Park having taken four of a possible six points from their opening two games on the road. And Sky Blue FC remain in search of their first victory of 2014.

“You want to win your home games,” Gabarra said. “And I wasn’t really happy with the performance. I thought we looked a little slow to react.


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