Sunday, August 22, 2010

22 August 2009 - Sky Blue Reigns

On 22 August 2009, New Jersey's Sky Blue FC and the Los Angeles Sol faced each other in the Final of the inaugural Women's Professional Soccer playoffs. The Sol, who had had beaten Sky Blue in the latter's opening match of the season, finished at the top of the regular league table, but Sky Blue won the rematch to claim the new league's first title.

The top four finishers in the regular season qualified for the playoffs, which used an unusual format. The third-ranked team , hosted the fourth-place team, with the winner advancing to face the second-place team. The winner of that match then met the regular-season champions for the trophy. Sky Blue finished fourth, so had to defeat third-place Washington Freedom (winning 1-2) and second-place St. Louis Athletica (0-1) in order to play the Los Angeles Sol.

Playing before a crowd of 7,218 at the Sol's home stadium, the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, Sky Blue played a strong defensive game to shut down Sol star Marta, the league's leading scorer. But when a deep throw-in early in the first half gave them a rare scoring opportunity, they made the most of it; defender Keeley Dowling's cross found Natasha Kai in the box, the striker headed the ball down to midfielder Heather O'Reilly (pictured, no. 9), who knocked it into the net off of Sol keeper Karina LeBlanc to give Sky Blue a 16th-minute lead.

The Sol's chances were further frustrated in the 27th minute, as center back Allison Falk received a red card for a challenge on Kai. Down to ten players, the hosts were unable to mount a serious threat and the match ended 0-1.

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