PISCATAWAY, NJ–Sky Blue FC, New Jersey’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team, lost its second home match of the season 2-1 against the Western New York Flash on Saturday evening, May 7, at Yurcak Field.
The Mother’s Day weekend match, a regional rivalry, represented the two clubs’ first kick-off against one another this season. Sky Blue is now in 8th place (1-2-1, 4 points), in the 10-team NWSL.
A first half tally by Garden State native Maya Hayes, a forward, put Sky Blue on the board in the 35th minute. The score remained 1-0, through the half until Flash Defender, Jaelene Hinkle, converted a 71st minute penalty kick to equalize it at one each.
But the Garden State club “just didn’t do [itself] justice in the second half,” as head coach Christy Holly put it, noting that his players “wanted to take control,” but didn’t deliver.
“We had the opportunity to establish a foothold in the game, and we just did not do it,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach, regarding the second half.
Western New York (2-2-0, 6 points) seized the lead with an 86th minute game-winner as midfielder Samantha Mewis quickly struck a loose-ball-rebound into the back of the net.
The game drew 1,252 fans, slightly less than half the amount who attended the home opener on Sunday, April 24 (2,571). In that match, Sky Blue took on the Washington Spirit, and lost 2-1.
Asked by New Brunswick Today about the reduced crowd size compared to the first home game, Holly didn’t blame it all on the partly cloudy weather, but said it didn’t help.
“Traditionally the second [home] game when you look at the numbers, has always been the lowest attended game,” Holly said.
“I think we had a good energetic crowd and you know we gave them a good performance in the first half. We gave them a reason to be here [but] we have to back it up over two halves.” Acknowledging the use of an old cliché, he added that “the games not won in one-half.”
Sky Blue had started out the season strong, winning its first match over the Seattle Reign FC, 2-1, on the Reign’s own turf, Memorial Stadium, where the club was unbeaten over its previous two seasons. The Reign, (2-2-0), two-time defending NWSL Shield winner, are currently in 6th place.
“Obviously, we are very happy with this result,” Holly said following the win in Seattle.
“We came in with a game plan, and we executed parts of it. However, we know we can be better,” said Holly. “The main thing we want to walk away from this game with is knowing that this is just the first step in a very long journey. We will [now]… focus on some of the things that we did not do so well.”
Then, only five days following the victory, Sky Blue departed Texas, settling for a draw with the Houston Dash at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“The team showed fantastic heart and a fantastic attitude, and every single player contributed,” said Holly following the tie.
“It was a bit difficult to deal with the long flight and a quick turnaround after playing on Sunday and I am very proud of the resolve that our team displayed”
Sky Blue goalkeeper Caroline Stanley did outsanding in the net, registering seven saves in the April 29th match. She was named the Pine Belt of Lakewood Player of the Game.
“It is disappointing to suffer another loss at home. This is not something that sits well with us,” said Holly on Saturday evening.
One young fan and player herself, Melanie Benish, 14, said she plays soccer at the College of New Jersey, for the Olympic Development Program (ODP), an advanced, yet non-profit educational organization formed in 1977 to help select national teams, and identify and prepare players for international competition.
Benish, a right midfielder, traveled up to Piscataway from Haddon Township with her mom and dad to finally get to see Sky Blue FC play.
“It’s great to be here,” she said.
Several of Holly’s players are out with injuries, which of course, didn’t help matters. Asked about the status of Sam Kerr, who is recovering from off-season foot surgery, Holly said the forward would be back in full contact in two weeks.
“There were moments where we showed our lack of experience … and we were ultimately punished for it,” said Holly. “We will sit down to discuss this match so we can make the proper adjustments as we start preparing for next week.”
That match is also at home, against the last place Boston Breakers, on Friday evening, May 13 at 7:00 p.m.
The remaining 2016 home schedule is as follows (all matches are at Yurcak Field):
Boston Breakers – Friday May 13
FC Kansas City – Saturday June 11
Seattle Reign FC – Sunday June 19
Houston Dash – Saturday July 9
Washington Spirit – Saturday July 23
Chicago Red Stars – Saturday August 27
Orlando Pride – Wednesday September 7
Portland Thorns FC – Sunday September 25
Tickets are available at SKYBLUEFC.COM or by calling (888) SBFC-TIX.
Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.