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Sky Blue defeats Dash to get back into playoff mix

Sam Kerr scored on Friday to help Sky Blue FC get into the NWSL playoff mix. (Photo Courtesy Sky Blue FC/Robyn McNeil)

Sam Kerr scored on Friday to help Sky Blue FC get into the NWSL playoff mix. (Photo Courtesy Sky Blue FC/Robyn McNeil)

Sky Blue FC pulled back itself into the NWSL playoff race on Friday with a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dash at BBVA Compass Stadium. Nadia Nadim and Sam Kerr scored for the visitors, who remain in eighth place in the nine-team league but only 3 pts. out of the fourth and final playoff spot, currently occupied by Houston.

Nadim opened the scoring in the 38th minute with a diving header. Kerr found space on the right flank and crossed the ball toward Kelley O’Hara, who only got a piece of the ball as she lunged toward it. The deflection went straight into the path of Cami Levin, who chipped a cross toward the center of the goal and found Nadim for the finish. Almost a year ago to the day, Nadim came to Houston and scored a hat trick against the Dash.

Nadim’s goal on Friday was the culmination of an impressive first half for Sky Blue FC. Kerr and Katy Freels nearly combined in the 20th minute, but Kerr couldn’t cleanly connect on an attempted volley of Freels’ scoop pass.

[LAULETTA: The anatomy of a 45-minute hat trick, via Crystal Dunn]

Kerr did find net in the 72nd minute, however, pouncing on a defensive mistake by the Dash and collecting her own rebound for the finish. Houston defender Ella Masar recovered to block Kerr’s initial shot, but the ball fell right back to the 21-year-old Australian international for the tally.

The Dash has ample opportunities throughout the match, but finishing was at a premium in the Houston heat and humidity on Friday — and Sky Blue goalkeeper Brittany Cameron was in top form.

Cameron denied Melissa Henderson on a point-blank volley in the 26th minute, and Henderson blew an open header all on her own in the 25th minute, heading the ball off of her shoulder and out of bounds. Henderson was again denied by Cameron three minutes after halftime.

[MORE: Thorns hammer Breakers to salvage NWSL playoff hopes]

Carli Lloyd had the Dash’s best opportunity of the second half. In the 63rd minute, she took a free kick from 25 yards out, dead center, and forced Cameron into her best save of the night, a diving effort to Cameron’s left.

Jess McDonald also nearly scored for Houston, looping a header in the 58th minute off the top of the crossbar.

The victory gives Sky Blue FC 17 pts., three behind fourth-place Houston. Five teams are now separated by 3 pts. with one month left in the regular season.

Houston visits league-leading Seattle on Wednesday, while Sky Blue FC visits second-place Chicago earlier in the night before the league’s international break next weekend (with the exception of a rescheduled Chicago-Washington game).


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