PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Sky Blue FC beat the Houston Dash, 1-0 on Wednesday at Yurcak Field in the final regular season NWSL match of 2013. Lindsi Cutshall scored on a 1st half rebound and goalkeeper Jill Loyden got some help from the post and an errant Tiffany McCarty shot to post a shutout.
It was the 5th straight win for Sky Blue to equal a franchise record. They finished the season in 6th place but just a point out of the final playoff spot. They also cost themselves the No. 1 pick (barring expansion) in the 2015 draft. The pick now goes to the Dash after they lost their final six matches. A Dash win would have dropped the Breakers into last. Sky Blue owns Boston’s 2015 1st Round pick.
“We came awful close,” Gabarra said. “You always want to have a couple of those results back from early in the season. Or maybe some team helps you out. I think maybe we were probably the most on-form team at this point in the season. And that’s always your goal to be playing your best at this time of the year.”
Sky Blue nearly pulled off an unlikely playoff berth, but were eliminated when the Red Stars scored late to draw the Flash on Saturday night. They also needed the Thorns to draw Seattle the next day, but Portland won, 1-0. Gabarra cited two late missed penalties—one against the Thorns and another against the Breakers—that cost the team four points. They also conceded two late goals including a stoppage time penalty in a 3-3 draw in Washington.
Wednesday’s match, played before a small but enthusiastic crowd, was an entertaining battle considering nothing was on the line and both teams were missing players for various reasons including national teams, loan deals, plus school and personal commitments. The goal came in the 18th minute. Sophie Schmidt delivered a perfect ball into the six where Monica Ocampo had her shot stopped by Bianca Henninger. Cutshall was in the right spot to finish the rebound for her 2nd goal of the season. Henninger made several slick saves the rest of the half. She stopped Kelley O’Hara in close just before the goal and later Cami Levin from long range. Finally she stopped Maya Hayes from short range late in the half. Henninger was then replaced by Erin McLeod for the 2nd half, a pre-planned substitute by coach Randy Waldrum who only had two field players to bring off the bench.
The Dash had a series of quality chances as well. In the 34th minute, Loyden made a strong save on Nina Burger but the rebound went to McCarty who had half an open goal in her sights only to shoot wide. Near halftime, Kealia Ohai got through on a counter and ripped a shot that Loyden got just enough of to deflect it off the post.
“I’ve hit the post four times I think in the last four games and it’s frustrating,” Ohai said. “It’s just one of those things where (I) have to take the off-season to work on it and just work on finishing.
“But it just comes down to those little moments. And I think that’s what’s happened all season. We’ve had so many games where we’re in it to the very end and then in stoppage time they score a goal or they miss a goal. That’s one thing we want to correct next season is just those small moments where we turn off a little bit.”
Sky Blue (9-8-7, 34 pts.) finishes 6th and based on the current setup will have the 2nd and 4th picks in the 2015 draft. The Dash (5-16-3, 18 pts.) finished last of nine teams and currently stand to carry the No. 1 overall pick into January.
Sky Blue forward Monica Ocampo tripped over Kaylyn Kyle late in the 1st half and suffered a separated left shoulder. O’Hara tweaked her hip or groin during warmups and was taken off midway through the 1st half.
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