Thorns FC Opponent Dossier: Sky Blue FC - July 31, 2013

Sky Blue FC look to hold off Thorns FC in table position

Thorns FC Opponent Dossier: Sky Blue FC

Photo Credit: 
Craig Mitchelldyer

The Portland Thorns are in action at JELD-WEN Field on Wednesday evening as they host Sky Blue FC in the third meeting between the teams (7:30pm PT, Live webstream, Freedom 970). Find out all of the information on the opposition.

TACTICAL VIEW

What can the Thorns expect?
Comfortable setting up in either a conventional 4-4-2 formation or a more attack-minded 4-3-3 style, Sky Blue have numerous players on their roster who can cover a multitude of positions. There isn’t anything flashy about this team and they may have fewer star names, but they make up for that in how they play, which is organized, disciplined, relying in superior fitness, and strong in all areas.

Everything starts with goalkeeper Brittany Cameron, who is a commanding and reassuring presence behind a backline that features such reliable defenders like Christie Rampone, Kendall Johnson, Courtney Goodson and Caitlin Foord, while the midfield is commanded by Katy Freels and Sophie Schmidt, with Lisa De Vanna leading by example up front. But they have other players who can step up too when called upon.

Who are their main threats?
If one were to judge them by their stats alone, then the danger players would be De Vanna and Monica Ocampo – the team’s top scorers. And they certainly are threats that make a big difference in almost every game. Yet, it is how the ball reaches those forwards that makes Sky Blue into the quality outfit that they are, because they play soccer in such an effortless fashion it is like this team has been together for years.

The creativity in midfield of Freels, Schmidt and Taylor Lytle gets them moving with their quick passing and high-pressure game allowing their forwards to work closer to the opposition’s goal. From there, De Vanna and Ocampo do their thing, but the work-rate and team play of Danesha Adams and Kelley O’Hara is also key to Sky Blue not solely relying on one or two attackers to fire them to victory.

Where are they most vulnerable?
Sky Blue like to keep things tight with plenty of support coming from midfield to help out their defense, but they can give up valuable yards if pressed back enough. The recent 3-0 defeat to Western New York Flash showed that they struggled with the physicality of Abby Wambach and the busier that back-up keeper Jillian Loyden was, the more New York profited – so the instruction from Cindy Parlow Cone to her team will be to shoot on sight of goal.

Starving a team like Sky Blue of possession is always the best way to frustrate them because they have so many players who are comfortable on the ball and technically very good. But, thankfully for the Thorns, they have players of that ilk too, which means they can dictate the tempo of the game and force Sky Blue into ripping up their game-plan, if they can keep the ball, use it well, and push their opponents back inside their own half of the pitch.

KEY PERSONNEL

Head coach: Jim Gabarra
One of the most experienced coaches in the NWSL, Gabarra spent almost a full decade in charge of Washington Freedom during their time in Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) and the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). He also took charge of the San Diego Spirit for a short stint, but has now taken over from Rick Stainton to lead Sky Blue FC.

Star Player: Danesha Adams
This 27-year-old is proof that forwards can contribute a lot more to games than just goals as she is just as good holding up play, combining with teammates, and creating chances for others. Intelligent with the ball at her feet, Adams can play in a variety of attacking positions and excel in each of them. For Sky Blue, she has become an integral part of how they play.

One To Watch: Katy Freels
Selected as the fifth overall pick in the NWSL Supplemental Draft, this Auburn University graduate has been sensational in her first season in New Jersey. Able to play on both sides of the ball – defensively and attacking – Feels is a midfielder who has seems to be involved in the action, plus she leads the way for her team with assists after recording four so far.

FLASHBACK

What happened when the teams last met?
Earlier in the season, Sky Blue escaped from JELD-WEN Field with a narrow 1-0 victory, but the Thorns missed out on revenge when drawing 0-0 in the second meeting between the teams. In that game, goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made a season-high seven saves and forward Tiffany Weimer registered four shots on goal on what was her Thorns debut.

What did the Thorns learn from that game?
Undoubtedly, Sky Blue showed their quality and why they have remained near the top of the table for the majority of the season. A very balanced team, they defend as a unit and attack as a blistering force that can be difficult to stop. If it wasn’t for LeBlanc producing a masterful, shot-stopping performance, then the Thorns may have suffered a second defeat to Sky Blue.

As good as they were though, Sky Blue was severely tested by the Thorns despite not hitting top gear. The movement of Weimer, Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan up front caused a lot of problems, which reassured Parlow Cone’s team that they can match Sky Blue and will be aiming to build on that when they meet again in what will be the third clash between the teams this year.

What did the two camps have to say at the time?

Portland Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone
“I think we were lucky to come away with a point. Sky Blue is an outstanding team and they showed it again. They got in behind us several times and obviously created a lot more chances than we did.”

Sky Blue FC captain Christie Rampone
“I’m really proud of the team and the way we battled. I think our fitness kicked in at the end, which is a credit to Jim (Gabarra, head coach) and the coaching staff for really pushing us early on in the season.”

How has Sky Blue fared since then?
Since last taking on the Thorns, Sky Blue has a record of 1-3-2 with back-to-back defeats to Western New York Flash and FC Kansas City in their last two outings. In those six games, they have scored five goals and conceded nine times, which suggests that their form has not been as consistent as they would like it to be when squaring up to the team sitting just one point behind them in the table.

Did You Know?
Sky Blue forward Lisa De Vanna scored four goals for Australia en route to the quarter-finals of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and then went back to her day job once the tournament finished.

Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandThornsFC.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.