Sky Blue FC lost to the Chicago Red Stars 4-1 Sunday afternoon in their second match of the NWSL Fall Series. The match at SeatGeek Stadium in Chicago was presented digitally for Sky Blue fans by Provident Bank.
Sky Blue put the pressure on Chicago’s defense right from the start of the match, and their efforts paid off in the sixth minute. Midfielder Jennifer Cudjoe played the ball out wide to forward Paige Monaghan, who drove into the box from the right side and played in the ball across the goal. Chicago goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher, dove to stop the cross but deflected it to forward Ifeoma Onumonu. The forward tapped the ball into the back of the net for the first goal of the match.
Chicago quickly came back on the other end and found the equalizer just four minutes later. Forward Kealia Watt was played in behind the Sky Blue backline after making a darting run from the left side. Sky Blue goalkeeper DiDi Haracic came out to close down the angle on Watt. Haracic was unsuccessful as the ball was slotted past her into the net to level the score.
In the 17th minute, Chicago was back looking for more, when the ball was played to an on-running Vanessa DiBernardo at the top of the six. Haracic was quick off her line to take the ball off the midfielder’s feet and stop the attack.
The match then began to settle into a rhythm, with Sky Blue building in their possession and Chicago looking to counter on the other end. In the 27th minute, Red Stars defender Bianca St. Georges picked off the ball and played it over the top of the Sky Blue backline to her teammate, forward Zoey Goralski. She then chipped the ball around an oncoming Haracic and put it in the back of the net to put Chicago up a goal.
After the goal, the Sky Blue attack was back in full force, looking for an equalizer. Sky Blue defender Imani Dorsey made her way into the attack and combined with Onumonu and Monaghan to help create several opportunities on goal. The team’s best chance for a second goal came in the 42nd minute. Onumonu took on her defender and opened space for herself in the upper right corner of the box. She drove a shot on the ground towards the far post, but it went just wide.
Chicago was back on the other end just two minutes later, as Watt played a ball to DiBernardo, who was waiting at the top of the box. DiBernardo struck the ball off a half-volley into the left side netting to put Chicago up 3-1 going into halftime.
Early in the second half, both teams had their share of the ball and created chances offensively. Chicago was able to capitalize on their opportunities in the 57th minute when Watt found herself behind the Sky Blue defense. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who entered the match for Sky Blue at the half, came off her line to stop Watt. Ultimately Watt slotted the ball past Sheridan into the lower righthand corner of the goal.
Following the goal, Sky Blue’s attack began to push for a comeback. In the 72nd minute, Onumonu once again created space for herself on the right side of the box and sent in a shot to the far post that was just inches wide of the net.
Sky Blue kept pushing for a goal into stoppage time, and they almost found the back of the net when the ball fell to midfielder Domi Richardson at the top of the box, but her volley went just wide of the Chicago goal. Right before the final whistle, Sky Blue midfielder Sarah Woldmoe drove a shot to the near post from the top of the box, but Naeher was able to come up with the save, securing the 4-1 victory for the Red Stars.
Despite the defeat, Sky Blue will come away with some positives, one of these being Onumonu’s performance offensively. The forward recorded four total shots in today’s match, including her sixth-minute goal for Sky Blue, her second of the Fall Series. Onumonu ultimately earned the Saker Shop Rite Woman of the Match award for her impressive performance.
“We had many good opportunities today,” said Sky Blue head coach Freya Coombe after the match. “I think we just weren’t firing on all cylinders, but the fact that we had a good number of chances is pleasing, and it shows we are moving in the right direction.”
Sky Blue now has three points through two matches in the Fall Series. With just two matches left to play, the club will be looking to get another three points in their next match against the Washington Spirit.
“Chicago and Washington are very different teams,” said Sky Blue defender Gina Lewandowski. “A lot of Chicago’s goals came from our mistakes. It was just really minor things, and I think we kind-of gave Chicago the match. I don’t anticipate we will do the same against Washington.”
Sky Blue will play the Spirit in their first home match of the Fall Series at Montclair State University, home of New York Red Bulls II, on Saturday, October 3, at 12:30 p.m. ET. Fans in the U.S. and abroad will be able to watch the match live for free on Twitch.
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