Sky Blue FC (1-17-6, 9 points) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Saturday for its 2018 season finale, using a tremendous team performance to shut down the Orlando Pride (8-10-6, 30 points) at Yurcak Field, 1-0. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan recorded the shutout for Sky Blue FC, which earned the victory behind a 74th game-winner from Carli Lloyd that was assisted by Shea Groom.
“Needless to say, we are all excited to end the season on a win today,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach. “Before the game, we spoke about putting all of the previous results behind us and just focusing on this opportunity that we had in front of us. We came out with a mentality to just go for it, get it and keep it. These players are so deserving of this result, and I am really happy that they get to finish off the season with a win.”
Sky Blue FC nearly broke the score open in the 7th minute of play, as Groom sent a ball to Imani Dorsey as she raced down the left flank. Dorsey then took one touch outside the 18 before hammering a left-footed shot that banged off the crossbar.
The host side was quickly up to the task on the other side of the field just three minutes later as Christine Nairn sent a ball over the top for Alex Morgan, who appeared to be running into a 1v1 situation with Sheridan. At the same time, she was quickly tracked down by Erica Skroski, who stuck out her leg to deflect a would-be shot. Skroski then got to the loose ball first and played Christina Gibbons, who was able to clear it from danger.
In the 20th minute, Skroski sent a feed upfield for Groom, who immediately showed off some fantastic footwork as she danced through a series of defenders on top of the penalty area. She then stretched into a pass for Dorsey as she entered the box, but an ensuing shot from Dorsey was just wide of the far post.
This match was eventually headed towards halftime still scoreless, but it would require a fourth first-half save from Sheridan before that scoreline would hold. On a sequence in the 42nd minute, Chioma Ubogagu sent a through-ball to Sydney Leroux inside the box. Leroux turned and fired off a point-blank shot in front of the goal, but Sheridan somehow got a hand on her attempt to keep it clean of the net.
In the 63rd minute, Skroski again showed off the jets on a play where Morgan was delivered a lofting ball into the penalty area. As Morgan seemingly headed into a 1v1 situation with Sheridan, Skroski again raced onto the scene to dispossess her and send the ball back in the other direction, which kept the match scoreless.
Just three minutes later, the crossbar proved to once again be the enemy of Sky Blue FC, as Dorsey carried down the left flank before playing Lloyd on top of the 18. Lloyd then headed the ball down for Katie Johnson, who blasted a shot that rattled the crossbar for the second time of the afternoon.
In the 74th minute, Sky Blue FC was finally able to break through. On the series, Groom acquired possession in the midfield and aggressively raced towards the 18. As she arrived there, she sent a pass to the top of the area, where Lloyd immediately rifled a right-footed strike that shredded the back netting and gave Sky Blue FC the 1-0 advantage.
Over the final stretch of this contest, Sky Blue FC was able to maintain control of the momentum, and the team held strong all the way to the final whistle to preserve the 1-0 victory and end the season on a much-deserved high note.
With her six saves today, Sheridan ends the season with 107 stops. That is one more than Alyssa Naeher’s 2014 total of 106, but she finishes the year just a single save behind Washington Spirit netminder Aubrey Bledsoe, who set the new NWSL record with 108 stops in 2018.
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