Sky Blue FC (0-13-4, 4 points) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Sunday, battling the Orlando Pride (8-6-6, 30 points) to a 2-2 draw at Orlando City Stadium. After a fairly casual first half took the two clubs into the break on a scoreless draw, the game exploded with a thrilling second half that gave spectators a little bit of everything.
“I thought we were really well-organized tonight,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach. “We created a few good chances on direct transition in the first half, but we were unable to hold the ball long enough. That made us defend a little more often than we would like. In the second half, we were able to come into our own with a bit more possession and by changing the point of attack. Overall, our players showed so much discipline tonight and worked well together for the entire 90 minutes. As a coach, you really cannot ask for much more than that.”
Sky Blue FC nearly broke the deadlock in the 28th minute after a give-and-go between Savannah McCaskill and Shea Groom sprung McCaskill into space. After spotting Imani Dorsey on a perfectly-timed run, McCaskill sent her a ball that split two defenders. Dorsey then ran onto the feed and into a 1v1 situation with Orlando netminder Ashlyn Harris. There she was able to fire a great strike towards her target, but Harris managed to come up with a huge save to deny her.
In the 42nd minute, the Pride was awarded a dangerous free kick opportunity from just outside the 18. Marta then took a direct strike on goal with the try, but Sky Blue FC midfielder Sarah Killion was able to head the ball off its trajectory and force it to bang off the crossbar. Dani Weatherholt then hit a follow-up shot off the rebound, but Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was there to collect.
The stalemate was finally broken in the 51st minute on a play that started off a throw-in by Chioma Ubogagu. Collecting her toss was Dani Weatherholt, who turned and ran inside the 18 before striking a shot that was punched away by Sheridan. The ball then deflected off the far post and was one-timed by Marta with her left foot, placing a 1-0 deficit on the scoreboard.
Sky Blue FC wasted little time in drumming up a response, leveling the count at one apiece just two minutes later. On that series, Christina Gibbons played Shea Groom, who laid off a feed for McCaskill in the center of the park. After a quick touch, McCaskill led Groom on a run into the box, where she shook a defender before chipping a ball to the far side of the area. There to receive it was Dorsey, who settled with her left foot and struck a shot past Harris with her right foot to make it a 1-1 game. The goal by Dorsey was her third score in just the past four matches.
In the 59th minute, Sky Blue FC was able to grab the lead. After a give-and-go between Carli Lloyd and Amanda Frisbie, Lloyd turned the other way and delivered a well-placed ball for McCaskill as she entered the 18. McCaskill quickly headed it towards the center of the box, where Groom climbed the ladder and battled for a header that she tucked inside the far post to give her team a one-goal advantage, 2-1.
With the Pride down a goal, the hosts began throwing heavy numbers forward and soon found their equalizer in the 73rd minute. On the sequence, Camila laid off a ball for Weatherholt just outside the 18, and she then sped into the box with possession. Sheridan was able to come off her post in time to deflect the ball from Weatherholt’s feet, but it redirected into the air where Weatherholt was able to head it into the goal and put up a 2-2 tally.
At this point, Sheridan still had plenty of work to do in order to preserve a result for Sky Blue FC. In the 79th minute, Marta sent a ball into the box for Alex Morgan, who then stepped around a defender before rifling a shot on frame that Sheridan somehow managed to punch over the crossbar.
As the 90th minute approached, the fourth official indicated that seven minutes of stoppage time would be added, and this game would use all of it. In the sixth minute of the extra time, Marta sent a corner kick into the area that bounced around until Lloyd was charged with a handball infraction that saw her get sent off with a red card. The result of that play was a penalty kick in favor of Orlando.
Once things settled, it was Marta who stepped over the ensuing penalty try in the seventh minute of stoppage time. The Brazilian then fired a left-footed strike on frame, but Sheridan chose perfectly and was able to deny the likely game-winner. Dorsey then ran onto the rebound and booted it away to ensure no other damage could be done.
A collective exhale then came as the final whistle was blown, and a 2-2 tally became the official result.
Sky Blue FC will now return home to Yurcak Field this Saturday, August 11, hosting the Houston Dash for a 7 p.m. kickoff at its Champion Women! Night. When gates open at 6 p.m., a special concert will be held on the concourse by the Grouser Girls, presented by Skye Energy Drink. Tickets for that game are available now online or by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849).
For more information on Sky Blue FC and for tickets to upcoming games fans are encouraged to click on the link seen here: