Three Surprises Help Sky Blue Find Attacking Stride

Thanks to an unlikely trio, the traditionally underperforming club is undergoing an offensive rebirth. Maura Gladys explains how two Americans and an Aussie are making an impact.
BY Maura Gladys Posted
May 01, 2013
1:00 PM
Past iterations of Sky Blue FC were not known for their offensive prowess. In fact, it’s just the opposite. As a member of the WPS from 2007-2009, Sky Blue often had young promising strikers that failed to flourish in New Jersey.

But this year could be different. At 2-0, Sky Blue FC is the only team that has won all of its games and has one of the strongest front lines of the league. A 2-1 victory over the Washington Spirit on Saturday was an introduction to the team’s talented offense. Granted, the Spirit have been a bit underwhelming thus far, and Sky Blue dominated much of the play anyway, but the display could be a pivotal moment,

It’s not a likely trio. There’s a striker who took a roundabout way to get to this point, another that sometimes seems better suited at grabbing headlines rather than goals, and a one who spent the past two years trying to stop others from putting the ball in the back of the net.

Danesha Adams
Danesha Adams had a promising youth and college career, scoring three goals at the 2006 U-20 World Championship for the United States and starring for UCLA. After graduating, Adams played for the Chicago Red Stars and Philadelphia Independence in the WPS but never solidly established herself as a consistent scorer. After the WPS folded, Adams went to Europe but returned for the start of the NWSL. She has brought momentum to Sky Blue where she has become a scoring threat and key distribution cog. In just the second minute of Saturday’s game against the Spirit, Adams swung a corner kick to the back post that defender Coco Goodson headed into the back of the net. In the young season, Adams has been a player who makes good decisions, puts herself in the right spot at the right time, and adds that one extra pass that springs a teammate towards goal.

Kelley O’Hara
Kelley O’Hara has spent the majority of her time with the U.S. women’s national team focusing on how to keep the ball out of the net. During Pia Sundhage’s reign, and now during Tom Sermanni’s, the 2009 Hermann Award-winning striker has been employed as a defender and has done a stellar job adapting to the position.

With Sky Blue, however, she will be the key to putting as many balls into the net as possible. O’Hara is back in her old spot, and she has transitioned with ease. Against Washington, she took several hard shots on goal from far out, linked with Adams, and made long runs into the box. In the second half, she stole the ball around midfield, took two big touches that gobbled up most of the half, made a shifty move to get around an onrushing defender, and forced another Spirit defender to foul her just outside the box. Just a few minutes later, she sent a beautifully weighted one-touch pass to Adams who ran onto it and sent a hard shot to the corner, forcing Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to make a save.

Despite playing on defense for the first game of the season, Sky Blue head coach Jim Gabbarra has told the media he expects O’Hara to play primarily up top. So, although she has yet to score a goal for Sky Blue, don’t expect that to last long.

Lisa De Vanna
Need a quick primer on Lisa De Vanna? Think the Australian Hope Solo. De Vanna has a bit of a history as a troublemaker, including posting inappropriate photos on the Internet and getting dismissed from the Australian national team camp. But like Solo, that off-field temperament translates into an incredibly entertaining player on the field. De Vanna has a potent combination of extreme pace and slick ball skills. She can run on to through balls, blow past defenders 1v1, draw fouls, and set up teammates. For Sky Blue’s second goal against the Spirit, De Vanna collected a ball over the top, raced into the box and neatly pivoted to hit an on-rushing Sophie Schmidt who buried it for the score. That creativity and vision serves both herself and her Sky Blue teammates and will be key to winning games this season. That’s not to say it’s all sunny for the team that many projected to be on the fringes of the playoffs. There should still be some growing pains from a young defense and silly mistakes that have yet to be made. Plus, it’s a long season. Sky Blue has played just two of 22 games and have another tough road game Wednesday where it takes on Abby Wambach and the Western New York Flash in Rochester. But, in the long run, if Adams and De Vanna can take pressure off O’Hara as the primary scorer, stepping up as the target player when needed, and the trio continues to gel, it will be a long season for Sky Blue opponents.

Maura Gladys, a featured ASN columnist, works in production for KICKTV. She also runs the goalkeeping blog All You Need Is Glove.

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