Sky Blue FC maintained their superb defensive record on Saturday night, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 win to FC Kansas City, who picked up a red card early in the game and never recovered.
Jim Gabarra opted to play Kelley O'Hara as a forward rather than in defense. She provided creativity on the ball and found space to move forward when her counterparts failed to find the pockets. Unfortunately, O'Hara sustained an injury to her right ankle in the 19th minute and was replaced by Taylor Lytle.
Earlier in the opening half, Lauren Cheney nearly stole SBFC's fourth consecutive clean sheet in the 9th minute. Cheney found the back of the net but was ruled offside. Sky Blue did not sit back and defend, but immediately pressured back up the flank with O'Hara and Sophie Schmidt down the center.
Shortly after O'Hara exited the field, Lisa De Vanna won a penalty kick as Lauren Sesselmann pulled her to the ground by her shirt inside the box. Sesselmann earned a red card and Schmidt scored on the PK, scoring what would ultimately be the game-winning goal.
Kansas City fought back, but couldn't find an equalizer. Cheney managed a shot wide of the post in the closing minutes of the opening half. Caitlin Foord responded with a powerful strike from 25 yards out but it was caught by Nicole Barnhart. Cheney had another great chance early in the second half, when she smacked the crossbar in the 48th minute.
SBFC struggled offensively but dominated defensively as the back four shut down Renae Cuellar, Erika Tymrak and Cheney on several occasions. De Vanna found herself on the ball in the box on multiple occasions, but was slow to shoot and test Barnhart.
FCKC took a short break in the 77th minute as Desiree Scott was tended to by a medical trainer. The time to regroup allowed FCKC to return to the field and create two attacking plays into the box for Cuellar. The home side pressed the gas for the remainder of the match, threatening to steal Sky Blue's lead.
The closing minutes of the match saw multiple attempts on goal by FCKC but Coco Goodson and Kendall Johnson managed to snuff out the danger. The last line of defense, Brittany Cameron, continued to prove her proficiency between the posts. In the 83rd minute Cheney forced Cameron out to the edge of the box to catch an ambitious header off the FCKC striker. She repeated her heroics in stoppage time as she dispossessed Cuellar of the ball on the edge of the box.