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Independence lose 1-0, remain in second place

The Philadelphia Independence traveled to Piscataway, New Jersey, to face defending WPS champions Sky Blue FC on Sunday, a team that they had beaten in their three previous encounters. A win for the Independence would have solidified their hold on second place behind league leading FC Gold Pride, critical for the expansion team’s post-season plans because the second place team gets an automatic play-off berth as host in the semi-finals.

Such plans are for now delayed thanks to a one-touch volley from Sky Blue’s Yael Averbuch in the 60th minute. The lone goal, along with an strong performance from Jenni Branam between the posts, turned out to be all that the hosts needed.

The Independence had two chances early in the first half, with Estelle Johnson’s effort going just wide and Allison Falk’s one-time strike hitting the side of the net.

Any momentum that resulted from these chances was halted in the 16th minute when lightning caused a 112 minute delay in play.

When play resumed, the slick pitch made things difficult for both teams and the first half ended with few offensive opportunities.

Sky Blue, who needed a win to keep their play-off hopes alive, came out swinging in the second half. Still. it seemed that Philadelphia might be the first on the board with two chances ten minutes into the half that involved Tina DiMartino. A shot from Danesha Adams that resulted from a DiMartino pass was blocked by a defender. Seconds later, a pass to DiMartino saw her free on the left but her shot was saved by Branam.

Soon after, the home team’s own efforts were rewarded when Heather O’Reilly collected a loose ball in the right corner of the box and chipped a cross to Averbuch, who launched a missile in to the upper left corner.

“I kind of tried to hang out on the left flank a little because Kacey [White] and Rosana had sucked a lot of players across,” Averbuch said after the game. “Then Heather was able to send the ball over the top of the defense, and I said ‘You know what? I’m going to go for it.’ It’s one of those you hit, and it either goes upper corner or into the stands. Luckily, I was able to connect with it well.”

The Independence brought Lyndsey Patterson and Lianne Sanderson into the game to create some offensive spark but Branam proved to be equal to any threats, including a shot from DiMartino in the 80th minute, and the match ended 1–0 in favor of the home team.

“We proved to ourselves tonight that we can capitalize on teams regardless of who they are,” said Sky Blue Head Coach Rick Stainton. “Philadelphia is a very good team in this league, and we had yet to have any success against them until tonight. To be able to correct our mistakes and accomplish that at this point in the season should be a nice building block for us as we fight for a playoff berth.”

Independence General Manager Louise Waxler said after the loss, “We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to capture a win on the road tonight. We are still looking to secure a playoff berth, and we have full confidence that the Independence has what it takes to move forward and earn a spot in the postseason race for the title.”

That confidence will be tested on August 29 when Philadelphia hosts Boston Breakers. Thanks to a 3–2 loss to Atlanta Beat at home on Sunday, Boston remains five points behind the Independence in third place, although they have played one fewer game. The match will be Philadelphia’s last home game of the season. Following that they will finish the regular season with two road games, the first on September 1 against Chicago Red Stars and the last against first place FC Gold Pride on September 11.

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Independence.

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