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Sky Blue cripple Flash hopes with 1-0 win

Kelley O'Hara's 50th minute goal gave Sky Blue a 1-0 win over the fading Flash . (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Kelley O’Hara’s 50th minute goal gave Sky Blue a 1-0 win over the fading Flash . (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Kelley O’Hara’s goal lifted Sky Blue FC to a 1-0 victory over the Western New York Flash in front of a Sky Blue (NWSL) record crowd of 3,471 on Thursday.

It was the final scheduled home match for Sky Blue but there remains an off chance a makeup game against the Dash will be necessary if either team has a chance to make the playoffs. Thursday’s win moved Sky Blue within 8 points of a playoff berth and they maintain a match in hand on Portland Thorns FC. The Flash remain 6 points off the pace with three matches to go after their second consecutive loss.

“I thought we created enough to get something out of the game,” Flash coach Aaran Lines said. “But I feel like a broken record. The difference between being a good team, a top team, and where we are, is getting something out of those games.”

Abby Wambach returned to the starting lineup for the Flash, two months after spraining her LCL in her left knee against Houston. The world’s all-time international goal scoring leader had numerous chances around the goal but was unable to finish. Two of them were diving headers off balls by Sonia Bermudez. “I feel like I should have put those chances away,” she said. “I had at least four solid ones. Sonia put balls in that were world-class. It seems as if some of these games for us have been about the wouldas and shouldas and couldas, and that’s not how you win championships.”

[MORE: Flash playing for pride, still seeking answers after loss to Sky Blue FC]

As for the goal that was scored, it was a product of some strong attacking soccer by Sky Blue. Caitlin Foord led the initial buildup and the ball wound up with Maya Hayes on the right wing. Hayes fought off Sonia Bermudez and whipped a ball into the box. Brittany Taylor had a chance to control and clear but the ball deflected off her to Nadia Nadim. As Nadim laid it off for O’Hara, a trio of Flash players were caught ball-watching and O’Hara stuffed it top-shelf.

O’Hara and Nadim have combined to score five of Sky Blue’s six goals since Nadim joined the starting lineup three games ago against the Spirit. The move has also had a positive impact on Hayes, the first-round pick who has improved her play after a slow start to her rookie season.

“Especially spending more and more time with the group and getting to know the girls and how each other play, I think it makes a huge difference,” Hayes said. “Even having that two-week break helped all of us. It kind of reset, regrouped, and kind of got everybody back on the same page to get things going again.”

The two-week break preceded the 4-2 win over the Spirit and Sky Blue is 2-1 since then (5-8-7, 22 pts. overall). They get the weekend off before heading to Houston on Saturday, August 9. Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra still holds out playoff hopes.

“Every game is a playoff game,” he said. “If we win out, we will have some interesting tiebreakers on teams, so we will just have to see what happens in the games ahead of us.”

As for the Flash (7-11-3, 24 pts.) they face a quick turnaround, visiting the Breakers on Sunday.

“Now we just have to play out the remainder of the games with some pride,” Carli Lloyd said. “We need some crazy stuff to happen now on the table.”

NOTES: Lloyd received her fifth yellow card of the season, but she is still one away from serving a suspension. One of the yellows, for hitting Vanessa DiBernardo, resulted in a two-match suspension. So that card does not count in her accumulation….Including playoffs, Sky Blue had not defeated, or had a lead against, the Flash in five matches since they won 1-0 at Yurcak on opening day 2013.


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