Sky Blue FC (0-5-1, 1 point) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Saturday night, suffering a 2-1 loss to the unbeaten North Carolina Courage (7-0-2, 23 points) at Yurcak Field. Scoring the lone tally for Sky Blue FC was Carli Lloyd, who blasted a rocket into the right upper 90 in second half stoppage time. Also in attendance for the match was Eric LeGrand, who served as the Sky Blue FC honorary captain.
“We started pretty well in the first half and created some dangerous opportunities,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach. “North Carolina is a team that is so good in transition, and they will punish you when you give the ball away. The two goals they scored were preventable, but they were able to capitalize on the situations. I do feel that we deserved a point, and I am very proud of the effort that our players gave tonight.”
Sky Blue FC nearly opened its account on a series that took place in the 6th minute. On the sequence, Lloyd carried possession past the midfield before laying off a ball for Shea Groom as she entered the penalty area. Groom then touched around a defender before firing a shot that forced a diving save by North Carolina netminder Katelyn Rowland, which resulted in a Sky Blue FC corner kick. On the ensuing corner, Amanda Frisbie centered a ball that Lloyd headed towards the target before Katie Johnson struck an attempt just high of the mark.
In the 16th minute, the Courage broke the deadlock on a play that saw Debinha gain possession in the midfield before feeding Jessica McDonald down the right flank. She then sent a ball just ahead of the Sky Blue FC back line that found Crystal Dunn, who tapped it into the goal to make it a 1-0 contest.
North Carolina stretched its advantage to a pair of scores in the 27th minute, as Dunn played Debinha into the box. Debinha quickly looked to center, creating a loose ball situation in front of the Sky Blue FC goal. Unfortunately for the host side, Sam Mewis was there to finish and make it a 2-0 match.
In the 72nd minute, Sky Blue FC earned a penalty kick opportunity after Lloyd was taken down inside the box. The New Jersey native then stepped over the ensuing try, but Rowland chose correctly to deny the attempt with a diving save to her right. Raquel Rodriguez was there to strike the rebound, but Rowland again made the save to keep the ball clear of the net.
Sky Blue FC did get on the board in the fourth minute of stoppage after being awarded a free kick chance on top of the 18. Rodriguez initially put the ball into play before Sarah Killion laid it off for Lloyd, who hammered an absolute screamer of a shot that ripped through the right upper 90. The emphatic blast was the first of the year for the Sky Blue FC captain.
The conversion brought the home team within a single tally, but the final whistle was blown right after the goal to leave a final 2-1 result on the scoreboard.
Sky Blue FC now hits the road for a Wednesday road pairing with the Washington Spirit, and the team returns home to Yurcak Field to host Seattle Reign FC for a 7 p.m. kickoff next Saturday, May 26. Tickets for that match are available now online or by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849).
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