In the first-ever WPS playoff game in league history Saturday, two second-half coaching moves by player-coach and captain Christie Rampone paid off as Sky Blue FC defeated the Washington Freedom, 2-1, on a hot day at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland.
Substitute Natasha Kai opened the scoring for Sky Blue FC in the 55th minute just a minute after being inserted into the game before a nice strike by Washington's Lisa De Vanna tied it in the 78th minute. Six minutes later, seldom-used substitute Francielle scored for Sky Blue FC to score the game-winner and move the New Jersey-side into the Super Semifinal on Wednesday, Aug. 19, when they will take on Saint Louis Athletica on the Athletica's home field at The Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in Fenton, MO.
Saint Louis earned the right to host the Super Semifinal as the second-place finisher in the WPS Regular Season. The winner of the Super Semifinal faces regular season champions Los Angeles Sol at The Home Depot Center at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 22 for the league championship.
"Tash [Natasha Kai] has been struggling with her shoulders and I thought a good 45 from her would be better than a soft 90 especially with the heat and the 4 O'clock game," Rampone said. "Fran [Francielle] has been doing an exceptional job at practice. She defends well and I thought that she could sit in front of us and change the point with simple passes. She was a key player for us tonight."