There are many Sky Blue FC players who deserve the title of MVP. Sky Blue did the unthinkable bouncing from the bottom of the standings to WPS Champion. It wasn’t an easy task, but one goal worked out in their advantage.
Heather O’Reilly netted the lone goal in the 17th minute. Sky Blue received a one-woman advantage 10 minutes later when the Sol’s Allison Falk was ejected. The New Jersey squad barely flinched as they went on to win the inaugural WPS Championship.
Sky Blue out shot Los Angeles 12 to 8, including five shots on goal to four. Goalkeeper Jenni Branam completed another impressive performance with four saves in the match.
Sky Blue battled through adversity all season, including losing two head coaches. In the end it was captain Christie Rampone who led them to the championship both on and off the field as captain and interim head coach.
O’Reilly earned MVP honors at the Championship, as well as a couple of Goal.com votes for Woman of the Match. But at the end of the day, O’Reilly said the title belonged to Rampone.
“I’m so proud of this group, but I think that we’d all agree that the MVP of this group is Christie Rampone,” O’Reilly said upon receiving the award. “What she’s done for this group has been unbelievable. For her to take up the role of coach, captain amongst all the other roles that she has in life is pretty incredible, so we owe a lot to you – so thank you, Christie. We’re just so proud of this group.”
Here are some thoughts from Goal.com’s staff:
Goal.com Chief Editor Andrea Canales: Jen Buczkowski was the unsung hero for Sky Blue FC, as she did the heavy lifting of marking Marta and limiting her chances on the ball. When the rest of the New Jersey squad tired and kept letting Marta through, it was Buczkowski who time and again closed her down.
Goal.com Contributor Jennifer Dawson: The player of the WPS Championship has to be Heather O'Reilly. O'Reilly's early goal gave Sky Blue FC an advantage that the Sol could not manage to overcome. It was a well-taken effort, as she created space for herself by hanging back and waiting to pounce in front of goal. When Kai flicked the ball across goal, O'Reilly flashed forward, kept her composure, and fired off a shot into the corner of the net. She also created another excellent chance in the 49th minute that forced a save from Karina LeBlanc. On top of that, her defensive tackle on Miyama quite possibly prevented the equalizer. There's no question that O'Reilly's contributions were the difference between the teams, and allowed Sky Blue to hoist the trophy.
Goal.com Women’s Soccer Editor Kathryn L. Knapp: Jenni Branam gets my vote for MVP. Branam had an impressive playoff series, allowing just one goal. She earned two shutouts, while collecting 10 saves in three matches. In all three games she took hard hits - the championship especially. Branam may never be the same after being knocked around. But she didn’t let it stop her from keeping her team in it until the end. She kept the backline organized and in the end helped her team to the WPS Championship. Branam gets my vote for her courageous and inspirational play.
Goal.com Contributor Christa Mann: I think Heather O'Reilly should get it for the game winning goal and a game saving defensive play. Jenn Buczkowski is my second choice because of her defensive play. She made some great tackles and is a bit of an unsung hero.
Goal.com Associate Editor Zac Rigg: The woman of the match was Kari Seitz. She did the most to affect the outcome of the game, more so than any player. Heather O'Reilly can be proud of her goal, but her MVP trophy will have to be left off at the referee desk before she leaves.
For more on Women’s Professional Soccer, go to Goal.com’s women’s soccer page.