Sky Blue FC returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Saturday, playing to a 2-2 draw against Utah Royals FC at Yurcak Field. Sky Blue FC was on the verge of picking up the win after taking a 2-1 lead into the 4th minute of second-half stoppage time, but an Amy Rodriguez equalizer on the final play of the game leveled it at two goals apiece.
“This was a really good performance from the opening minute of the game,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach. “We played tight defensively, and we were smart in our attacks. We also did a good job of not allowing them to counter much in transition. I am so proud of the way our team played because they never stopped working at any moment in the game. They deserved more out of this performance.”
Sky Blue FC opened the scoring in the 14th minute, finding success on a series that started with Madison Tiernan sending a feed upfield to Imani Dorsey on the left flank. Dorsey then pulled the ball back before delivering a pass to Raquel Rodriguez on top of the 18. Rodriguez quickly played Carli Lloyd before taking back possession and touching forward to Katie Johnson, who slid into a strike that blew past Utah goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and gave Sky Blue FC a 1-0 advantage.
The lead was nearly extended to a pair of goals in the 25th minute after Johnson sent a hard roller to Savannah McCaskill, who flicked a crafty back heel over a defender that found Lloyd as she raced into the penalty area. Lloyd then fired a shot that was just wide of the far post.
In the 48th minute, Sky Blue FC officially pushed its advantage to 2-0. The play started on the back line when Domi Richardson powered a ball upfield to Johnson, who sped under it and turned towards the center of the park. She initially looked to send a through-ball to an overlapping Imani Dorsey, but it was deflected by a defender. Johnson left no doubt on her following touch, lofting a ball into the left upper 90 that essentially froze Barnhart and gave her team a 2-0 edge.
With Sky Blue FC in control of the momentum, the hosts suffered a setback in the 55th minute when the match was temporarily halted after a lightning strike occurred near Yurcak Field.
Shortly after action resumed, Utah Royals FC was able to climb within a single tally in 58th minute. Taylor Lytle received a ball on the end line and then cut it inside for Rodriguez, who hit a shot towards the frame. Her strike then took an unfortunate deflection that resulted in an own goal, making it a 2-1 contest.
Sky Blue FC nearly put this one out of reach in the 72nd minute. Rodriguez intercepted a pass in the midfield that Sarah Killion quickly collected before hooking up Lloyd, who then danced through a pair of defenders before perfectly lofting distribution up the right flank for McKenzie Meehan. With Rodriguez racing down her lane outside the 18, Meehan fed the Costa Rica international a hard roller that she blasted on target, but Barnhart was able to make a diving save of the attempt.
As regulation eventually came to a close, the 4th official revealed that Sky Blue FC would have to hold onto its 2-1 edge for another three minutes of stoppage time. After doing so, Utah Royals FC eventually created one final opportunity deep into the 4th minute of extra time that ended with Christen Press laying off a ball for Rodriguez, who scored the equalizer and hung a final 2-2 tally.
Sky Blue FC will now hit the road for a four-game stretch before returning home to Yurcak Field for its 2018 season finale on Saturday, September 8, hosting the Orlando Pride for a noon kickoff. Tickets for that game are available now online or by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849). The first 1,500 fans through the gates will receive a Carli Lloyd bobblehead, courtesy of Brielle Orthopedics.
For all of the latest news on Sky Blue FC, visit the team online and follow us on social media: @SkyBlueFC
NWSL Match Report
Match: Sky Blue FC vs. Utah Royals FC
Date: August 18, 2018
Venue: Yurcak Field; Piscataway, New Jersey
Weather: 80 degrees, overcast
NJ: 1 | 1 - 2
UTA: 0 | 2 – 2
14 NJ Katie Johnson (Raquel Rodriguez)
48 NJ Katie Johnson
58 UTA Own Goal
90+4 UTA Amy Rodriguez (Christen Press)
NJ: Sheridan, Tiernan, Frisbie, Richardson, Dibbons, Dorsey (Hoy-55), Killion, Rodriguez, McCaskill, Johnson (Meehan-66), Lloyd
Subs not used: Casey, Pierre-Louis, Freeman
Head Coach: Denise Reddy
UTA: Barnhart, Moros (Johnson-69), Corsie, Sauerbrunn, Bowen, Matheson (Stengel-51), LaBonta, Jonsdottir, Rodriguez, Press, Tymrak (Lytle-57)
Subs Not Used: Smith, Scott, Gorry, Ratcliffe
Head Coach: Laura Harvey
Stats Summary: NJ / UTA
Shots: 9 / 18
Saves: 5 / 1
Corner Kicks: 0 / 3
Fouls: 14 / 7
Offside: 2 / 6
39 NJ Sarah Killion (Yellow Card)
69 NJ Carli Lloyd (Yellow Card)
76 NJ Madison Tiernan (Yellow Card)
Referee: Guido Gonzales, Jr.
Assistant Referee 1: Amilcar Sicaju
Assistant Referee 2: Katarzyna Wasiak
Fourth Official: Luis Arroyo