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Sky Blue FC 2 – 0 Philadelphia Independence

Photo: Michael Long

After winning six straight matches to take the top spot in the WPS table, the Independence traveled to New Jersey on Saturday night and played one of their worst games of the season. After a listless first half, Casey Nogueira netted a second half brace to give Sky Blue the 2–0 victory.

USWNT players Amy Rodriguez, Lori Lindsey, and Nicole Barnhart rejoined the team for the first time since the end of May. None of the three started, with coach Paul Riley deciding to keep with the squad that has won six straight. Striker Laura del Rio was given her first start of the season in place of the injured Veronica Boquete, who missed out through a quad strain.

On an especially steamy night at Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University, Philadelphia started the brighter of the two teams. Twice the ball was played over the top in the opening 15 minutes for del Rio, but the speedy Spaniard could not supply the finishing touch. The rest of the half finished out void of chances for both teams.

Rodriguez came on in the 55th minute for the ineffective Danasha Adams. Coming off of a disappointing World Cup that saw the speedy striker score no goals and even lose her starting role in the final, she looked short on confidence and struggled to find the ball much.

Sky Blue began to threaten around the hour mark when Adrianna smashed a 20 yard free kick off of Val Henderson’s post. The Philadelphia goalkeeper was beaten by the shot and lucky to see it hit the post and spin out of play.

Lori Lindsey was introduced on 63 minutes for del Rio and looked horribly out of sync with her club team. Her positioning seemed to cause confusion in the normally organized midfield and her passes too often misfired, frustrating her teammates.

It would be in the 71st minute when the home team would finally find the breakthrough. Adrianna floated a hopeful ball over the top for Nogueira, and a mix up in the central defense between Nikki Krzysik and Kia McNeill allowed the Sky Blue striker to streak between them and get a touch to the ball at the top of the box and push it past the on rushing Val Henderson. It was an uncharacteristic mix up for a defense that has been so stout during the winning streak. Riley was critical of all that were involved in the play, saying, “it was questionable goalkeeping and not great defense either.”

The Independence pushed forward in search of the equalizer and were made to pay in the 80th minute when Therese Sjogran put the ever dangerous Nogueira in on the left side. She made no mistake poking the ball into the far post past Henderson.

Lianne Sanderson was introduced immediately afterwards, but game was already gone.

The loss of Veronica Boquete was very noticeable throughout the game. Gone were the fluent movements and clever through passes through the midfield and too many balls were floated over the top for Tasha Kai. The striker not only couldn’t catch up to them, she could barely stay on sides most of the time, flagged at least seven time by my count. Rodriguez, del Rio, and Adams found themselves chasing lost causes all evening, as well. Not many times has there been a chance to criticize Paul Riley’s selection this season, but with Boquete out of the line up, Lianne Sanderson seemed the logical choice to provide the link at the top of the diamond.

Boquete’s injury doesn’t seem serious, with Riley saying “she’s got a quad strain. I didn’t want to risk her. We probably could have risked her, but I’d rather have her for the playoffs than have her tear it.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few changes to the line up when Philly travels to Boston on Wednesday night. Sanderson could get a starting nod, as could Joanna Lohman who warmed up late in the game but did not feature. Lohman could replace Christina DiMartino, who had one of her poorest outings of the season on Saturday. And Sanderson could see time in place of Adams or del Rio.

Val Henderson has been solid in goal while Nicole Barnhart has been away in Germany. When asked about the goaltending situation going forward, Riley said “we’ll play whatever goalie we think is going to win us the game.” He did seem disappointed in Henderson’s involvement in the first goal and did mention about Boston “it’s a smaller field, and they’ll put a lot of diagonal balls into the box” implying that Barnhart’s aerial prowess could be on call.

Western New York tied Boston on Sunday evening to bring themselves even with Philadelphia on top of the table with 27 points. WNY still has one game in hand.

Even on a particularly hot evening, Sky Blue should be concerned with only about 1500 people in attendance. Over 15,000 showed up to see Western New York take on magicJack earlier in the week, even bottom club Atlanta managed a crowd of over 9,000 for their weekend match. Philadelphia next plays at home this Sunday against Atlanta, with limited seats still remaining available according to reports.

Paul Riley quote of the week:

“I think we learned a lot tonight. That maybe A-Rod and Lori Lindsey are not going to help us. That maybe we need to keep with the chemistry we’ve got. That they’re going to have to work their tails off to get into the line up. They really didn’t help us when they went into tonight, and I was really disappointed with them.”

Player Ratings

Val Henderson – 5

Caught in no man’s land on the first goal. Had no shot at the second goal. Not the stalwart stuff we’ve seen the last few games.

Leigh Ann Robinson – 7

A decent outing for both outside backs. Robinson dealt with the crafty Heather O’Reilly very well almost all evening.

Nikki Krzysik – 5

Uncharacteristic mix up on the first goal. Normally a good distributor from the back, but too often resorted to long balls over the midfield on th evening.

Kia McNeill – 5

Uncharacteristic mix up on the first goal. Struggled to keep up with the speed of Nogueira and the physical play of Adrianna.

Estelle Johnson – 7

Complimented Robinson’s play on the right side with a decent night of her own on the left. Broke up play well and found passes into the midfield where other defenders could not. Contained Tobin Heath well in the second half.

Jen Buczkowski – 5

Off night from the midfield destroyer. Could not contain Sky Blue’s attack and lost the battle in the central midfield.

Christina DiMartino – 4

Easily her worst outing of the season. Gone was her mazy dribbling and final third passing, replaced with aimless balls over the top.

Sinead Farrelly – 6

The most consistent player in the midfield. Was confident on the ball and consistently picked out her teammates. Too bad she had no support on the evening.

Laura del Rio – 6

Probably the most involved offensive player. Had a few decent half chances in the first half that she could have done better with. Was better than Adams in the offensive central midfield role, but could not replace Boquete on the evening.

Danesha Adams – 5

Struggled at the start of the match playing at the top of the diamond. Faired a little better when moved up to compliment Kai, but with little service from the midfield, found herself struggling to get meaningful touches.

Tasha Kai – 4

Not sure if it was the line up changes, the hot weather or if it was just an off night, but the normally industrious Kai couldn’t get going. Was offside way too many times and struggled to connect passes all night.

Subs

Amy Rodriguez – 5

Looks void of all confidence. Showed less willingness to run behind the Sky Blue back line than I’ve even seen from her. Had one decent chance in the box, but couldn’t decide between shooting and crossing and played a ball that was in between to no one.

Lori Lindsey – 3

Poor effort from Lindsey. Her passes were all out of sync. She’d play square for a player looking for a through ball, over the top when a player was checking in. Looks like she needs practice time with Philadelphia.

Lianne Sanderson – 6

Came on with only ten minutes left in the match and at least showed some desire to get the ball moving forwards, something her teammates struggled with all match. She should start on Wednesday.

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