Red Stars drop opener to Sky Blue FC

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The Chicago Red Stars controlled play for most of the game Sunday, but Sky Blue FC proved too much as Chicago lost 1-0 in front of 4,440 fans at Yurcak Field in its opening game of the Women's Professional Soccer season.

Sky Blue FC, the defending WPS champions, was able to withstand a Red Stars attack that featured 13 corner kicks, but always seemed to be lacking the final pass.

"We were the better team, to be fair," Red Stars coach Emma Hayes said. "We looked creative going forward.

"I think we were robbed by poor officiating. I thought there were [penalty kicks]."

Hayes cited a play in the 82nd minute when Chicago midfielder Karen Carney was pulled down in the box by Skye Blue FC Karen Carney. Referee Ted Unkel did not call a foul on the play.

"This team will create chances, but it lacked in its finishing today," Hayes said. "I don't want to rely on poor officiating to give us decisions because I thought we should've done better in the final third."

Sunday's match also marked the WPS debut of central defender Kate Markgraf. The U.S. national team member missed the 2009 season after giving birth to twins in June of last year.

Markgraf is a welcome addition to Chicago's defense, which surrendered 25 goals in 20 games last year. The Red Stars finished in sixth place and out of the playoffs with a 5-10-5 record in 2009.

"The quality of the league is pretty impressive," Markgraf said. "It was a good game. It shows, with us, that if you let down for five minutes, they're going to score.

"New Jersey's a great team. They've got great chemistry. They know how to win. They know how to keep the win."

Sky Blue FC scored the game's only goal in the sixth minute when Natasha Kai slotted the ball past goalkeeper Jillian Loyden.

"In terms of performance, the team did everything we asked, apart from a five-minute spell where they gave up a goal in the first five minutes," Hayes said. "I think that was the only poor moment they executed in the game.

"Good performance. Disappointing result. Shocking officiating."

Jacqueline Purdy covers women's soccer for ESPN.com.