I went to the SoccerPlex today with one question: “Is Sky Blue for real?”
I left with many more questions:
- Why did the two Sky Blue players whose combined age is 74 cover more ground than the rest of the team? Yes, we know running is Christie Rampone’s thing, but Tasha Kai was left isolated and trying to press the entire Spirit team for much of the game. After an hour, she started coming over the sideline for water. She may have drawn a foul by simply falling down out of exhaustion. She said, in good humor after the game, that she simply ran until the tank was empty. Good for her, and she did have Sky Blue’s lone goal and another 1-2 good chances, but does this team really have no one else who can help with the pressure, especially against a Spirit defense that was unusually prone to coughing up the ball today?
- If Sky Blue had trouble possessing the ball and getting Raquel Rodriguez involved against a team missing five players on international duty, what happens when all the big guns come back from their teams? Sky Blue gets Kelley O’Hara and Sam Kerr, but in their last five games (my goodness, this season has gone quickly), they’ll be facing Chicago (Press, Johnston, Naeher), Kansas City (Sauerbrunn, O’Reilly — who’s going to Brazil as an alternate, Scott, Bowen), Orlando twice (most of the defense) and Portland (everyone).
- Would this game have been less choppy if it had been played at 9:30 last night instead of 11 a.m. this morning?
Rampone said this was the first time in her pro career she has played a game in the morning. I asked about the Olympics, which can impose some strange start times, but apparently not there, either. But she and coach Christy Holly weren’t using the early wake-up call or the soupy weather as an excuse. Both teams had to deal with it, and that might explain why neither team looked particularly sharp.
Spirit coach Jim Gabarra said the first half might have been the best half they’ve played all year. Offensively, at times, sure. Estefania Banini looked dangerous every time she touched the ball, and the passing combination that led to the first goal was pretty. And we might remember this as a breakout game for Caprice Dydasco, who was the sturdiest Spirit defender and also contributed offensively.
I didn’t have a good view of the second goal, so I wasn’t sure if Cheyna Williams had a terrific first touch on the ball or a lucky deflection. Honestly, neither was she. She said it all happened in a blur. But the shot was a nice, composed finish.
But to me, the Spirit seemed more error-prone than usual. Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps it was the occasional forearm shiver from the imposing Sky Blue players, perhaps it was the strange timing of the game.
In any case, the Spirit hit the Olympic break in great shape. Gabarra pointed out that the team went 4-1 in July without Dunn, D-Math, Krieger, Labbe and Zadorsky.
In fact, the last time those five players were available, the Spirit lost 2-1 at home to Sky Blue. If you know the quality of those players and watched today’s game without them, you’d wonder how in the world that was possible.
Funny old game. See you in September.