Sky Blue FC (0-9-3, 3 points) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Wednesday, playing Portland Thorns FC (5-4-5, 20 points) to a 1-1 draw at Providence Park. Scoring a second-half equalizer for Sky Blue FC was midfielder Carli Lloyd, while goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan recorded four saves in the contest.
“We started on our back foot tonight and were defending a bit too much,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach. “In the second half, there was a shift in our mentality and focus. We were pressing them on every situation, and we were really getting out on the front foot. It was a great performance in the second half, and we may have deserved more than just a point. To come into an environment like Portland tonight and get a result really says a lot about the character of our team.”
Both clubs were able to create opportunities in the first half this evening, with Sheridan making some key stops to keep the slate clean most of the way.
Sky Blue FC saw its best scoring chance of the opening half come in the 37thminute, with Sheridan getting the series started off a goal kick that traveled into the final third. First gathering the feed was Savannah McCaskill, who then turned and flicked possession to Shea Groom. After taking a couple of touches, Groom volleyed the ball to her left for Imani Dorsey, who one-timed a left-footed strike that forced a diving save from Portland netminder Adriana Franch.
The match remained scoreless until Thorns FC earned a 45th minute free-kick off a foul in the midfield. Meghan Klingenberg sent the ensuing chance into the penalty area, where Christine Sinclair first headed a ball that was quickly finished off on a diving header from Lindsey Horan. The goal placed a 1-0 tally on the scoreboard, and the halftime whistle was blown shortly after that play.
After some back-and-forth action to start the second half, Sky Blue FC earned a penalty try when Carli Lloyd was tripped-up in the box by Celeste Boureille in the 76th minute. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, and it was Lloyd who would take the kick. She then calmly stepped over the ball before blasting a shot into the left-side netting, equalizing the game at one apiece.
Sky Blue FC played with an intensified burst the rest of the way, and the New Jersey side nearly found a go-ahead tally in the 81st minute. Using crafty footwork to create some space, Raquel Rodriguez played a through-ball for Groom into the box. After taking a quick touch, Groom looked to poke the ball past Franch, but her attempt was just off the mark.
The final chance for Sky Blue FC came in the 87th minute. The series was started off a lofting ball from Madison Tiernan on her defensive half of the field, finding Lloyd on the right flank. The New Jersey native then ran inside before feeding an underlapping Groom into the area. As she approached the six-yard box, Groom fired a point-blank shot on frame, but Franch was able to turn away her try. After knocking around the rebound, that Sky Blue FC possession ended on a Rodriguez strike that was slightly off-target.
The final whistle was blown shortly after that sequence, and Sky Blue FC saw itself with a hard-earned road point as the game came to an official halt.
Sky Blue FC will now travel to Utah Royals FC for a Saturday night match-up at Rio Tinto Stadium. The team will then return home to Yurcak Field on July 7 to host the Chicago Red Stars at 7 p.m. Tickets for that match, which is Kids Club Night, are available now online or by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849).
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