Bridgeview, Ill. (April 19, 2009) – On a harsh, rainy day, Sky Blue FC withstood a first-half barrage from the Chicago Red Stars to claim a point on the road with a 0-0 tie in Women’s Professional Soccer action. The game was the home opener for the Red Stars at Toyota Park with 5,824 fans braving the conditions.
Despite a strong showing after halftime, Sky Blue FC couldn’t find the back of the net. Fortunately for the visitors, their defense was good enough to hold the Red Stars. Sky Blue FC goalkeepers Karen Bardsley and Jenni Branam split the shutout – Sky Blue FC’s first of the season – with Bardsley recording four saves before leaving the game at halftime with back spasms. Branam posted two saves in the second half.
For the game, Chicago held a 19-8 advantage in shots with most of those coming in the first half, but Sky Blue FC had the more dangerous chances in the game.
“It was great to be a part of history here in Chicago – it was a good crowd and the fans in Chicago are hardcore just like the fans in New Jersey,” said Sky Blue FC Head Coach and General Manager Ian Sawyers. “Coming away with the point on the road is not the perfect outcome. We played much better in the second half and created more chances.”
With the tie, Sky Blue FC stands at 0-1-2 for two points and fifth place in WPS. Chicago now stands at 1-0-2 for five points and third place.
In the opening half, the Red Stars had the better of the play holding a 13-3 advantage in shots while earning 10 corner kicks but the home side couldn’t find the back of the net.
In the 21st minute, Sky Blue FC nearly opened the scoring. Sarah Walsh carried forward before placing a perfectly-weighted splitting ball into the box. Fellow Australian Collette McCallum flew in on the left and beat Red Stars keeper Caroline Jonsson to the ball but her soft chip skimmed off the top of the bar and over.
For the rest of the first half, Sky Blue FC did well to avoid giving up a goal as Chicago pressed. In the 35th minute, Sky Blue FC keeper Karen Bardsley came well off her line to challenge Megan Rapinoe, who controlled the ball along the endline before firing over the goal from an angle. Seconds later, Carli Lloyd went right at Bardsley from distance.
In the 39th minute, the Red Stars came close off a crazy sequence. Karen Carney served a ball in from the right that was flicked on goal by Christiane but Sky Blue FC defender Keeley Dowling was there to clear the ball off the line. On the ensuing play, Rapinoe attempted a bicycle kick from just inside the box that was tipped over the bar by Bardsley.
Right before the halftime whistle, Carney blasted a free kick that was punched over by Bardsley, who took no chances in the wet conditions.
Sky Blue FC came out strong after the break and created the best chances in the second half. The visitors almost made a statement early when Kacey White served in a nice ball in the 48th minute but Julianne Sitch couldn’t turn her header on goal.
In the 61st minute, Sky Blue FC responded with a great counter attack started by Heather O’Reilly, who carried forward before finding Walsh on the right. Her cross went all the way through the box before finding White on the other side of the box. White cut the ball for McCallum but her first-time shot went over the goal from eight yards out.
After McCallum missed the far post from an angle off a nice feed from O’Reilly in the 73rd minute, Sky Blue FC came up with a pretty buildup eight minutes later orchestrated by White in the center of the park. At the end of the possession, White found second-half substitute Natasha Kai and she evaded a defender at the top of the box before blasting a shot that was stopped by Jonsson.
The Red Stars gave their fans a glimmer of hope and Sky Blue FC a big scare in the closing seconds of stoppage time. The ball fell right to the foot of Lindsey Tarpley at the top of the box, but her hard shot was right at Branam, who held on to save the tie for Sky Blue FC.
April 19, 2009 – Toyota Park