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Rodriguez lifts Independence to 2-2 draw with Sky Blue

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - After recent duty with the U.S. national team, Independence forward Amy Rodriguez admitted she wasn't ready to play 90 minutes in her team's opening Women's Professional Soccer game on the road against New Jersey's Sky Blue.

Christina DiMartino (right) scored the game-tying goal for the Independence late in the second half. (Marc Narducci/Staff)
Christina DiMartino (right) scored the game-tying goal for the Independence late in the second half. (Marc Narducci/Staff)Read more

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - After recent duty with the U.S. national team, Independence forward Amy Rodriguez admitted she wasn't ready to play 90 minutes in her team's opening Women's Professional Soccer game on the road against New Jersey's Sky Blue.

Rodriguez was, however, able to go 45 minutes and she turned what looked like a lost effort into a draw. Entering the second half with a 2-0 deficit, Rodriguez sparked the Independence to a 2-2 draw Sunday at Yurcak Field.

Christina DiMartino's goal during second-half stoppage time tied the score for the Independence, now in their second season after losing to the since-disbanded, California-based FC Gold Pride in last season's title game.

Rodriguez scored the Independence's first goal in the 57th minute and made several dangerous runs. She returned to the squad on Saturday from her time with the national team and was admittedly tired. She said that playing 90 minutes wouldn't have been realistic.

"Even though I wasn't at my 100-percent best playing because I just got off a plane from Scotland, I did my job and that was get my teammates fired up again," Rodriguez said.

When the World Cup is played this summer, all six WPS teams will be losing players for an extended time. In addition to Rodriguez, the other U.S. national team players on the Independence are midfielders Lori Lindsey and Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.

"A-Rod was the difference," Independence coach Paul Riley said.

Rodriguez cut the margin to 2-1 in the 57th minute when she was sent on goal by former Sky Blue forward Tasha Kai and fired in a shot a few steps inside the box.

"Tash played a fantastic ball to me in the center - a slight breakaway - and I found the far post," Rodriguez said. "It came at the perfect time and was soon enough in the half to give us enough energy to keep pushing."

Barnhart kept the Independence in the game by making a diving save to her right off a blast outside of the box by Casey Nogueira in the 70th minute.

DiMartino later scored the equalizer, taking a pass from rookie Sinead Farrelly and scoring from 12 yards out.

In the first half, Sky Blue dominated possession. Defender Brittany Taylor, who continually hurt the Independence with dangerous offensive runs down the flank, sent a cross in the 21st minute that teammate Laura Kalmari converted for the first goal.

Sky Blue doubled the lead when Nogueira sent a 23-yard free kick from the right side inside the far post.

Even though Sky Blue controlled play in the first half, the Independence had some solid chances to score. In the 13th minute, Kai made a sliding attempt but tapped a cross wide of the goal. During the 30th minute, DiMartino's point-blank shot from the left angle, six yards out, was saved by goalie Jenni Branam.