There was a telling moment in Sky Blue FC’s 3-0 home loss to the Houston Dash on Sunday. Christie Rampone put her foot into a free kick from distance and delivered a long ball into the penalty area. Only one of her teammates made the run into the box. The Dash easily cleared it out.
“This team has yet to come together and fight for each other,” coach Jim Gabarra said. “It’s kind of like a bunch of individuals out there. It was a general lack of cohesion and working together.”
With the loss, Sky Blue finished a three-match home stand having dropped all nine points, an especially troubling development having won in Portland in their most recent road match. They sit in 8th place out of 9 with a 2-6-4 record. Last season Sky Blue was the final playoff team with 36 points. With the season now at its halfway mark, they would need to go 8-2-2 the rest of the way to reach 36, and that does not factor in math accounting for the two extra matches on the schedule. It is also a pipe dream without something changing for the better.
“The first half we did some good stuff,” Gabarra said. “But we made two mistakes. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day where we’re getting punished for them. And they make mistakes and we have no idea how to stick it in the back of the net.”
Sky Blue was always going to struggle to score goals, but the defensive issues that have cropped up make getting results somewhere between challenging and impossible. The game plan Sunday was to change the point of attack and use the outside backs to put pressure on the Dash defense. It rarely happened.
“I thought (Caitlin Foord) and Kendall (Johnson) tonight were poor in the first half,” Gabarra said. “Their touch was off, they were losing the ball, giving it away, and then defensively they were getting caught out of shape.”
Gabarra said the outside backs—Cami Levin stepped in for Johnson after halftime—eventually lost their will to get forward. “We would go to one side and lose it. At some point if I’m the defenders I’m thinking the same way like why am I going to get forward if we’re just going to lose it and I have to defend half the field.”
The criticism was not limited to just the outside backs. The halftime substitutions included Lindsi Cutshall replacing CoCo Goodson, marking the first time Goodson had ever been taken out of an NWSL match. (Janelle Filigno actually replaced Johnson with Levin dropping back from midfield to play left back.)
“Both CoCo and Christie (Rampone) have been struggling physically. The first half we couldn’t even get them out of our half when we had possession of the ball. Half of that is the fact that we were terrible at keeping possession and being patient. The other half is physically they’re fatigued or just not right.”
With the season on the brink of complete disaster, Gabarra will be looking to make roster changes in the coming weeks. “We have to make some changes. We have two international spots. I’ve been trying for two months to fill them. It’s difficult with World Cup qualifiers and not having the money to compete with the European teams. We’ll probably bring in one whether it’s a trade or a free agent.”
On the question of morale, the coach said it is okay but not necessarily where it should be. “You want someone to get angry or get in a fight or something. It doesn’t happen in the women’s game too often. When the going gets tough we kind of give up a little bit too easy.
“It’s my responsibility to get them to play as a team, and it’s been a little bit slow with them this year.”
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