Sky Blue FC (0-2-1, 1 point) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action tonight, showing great resolve to earn a tough road point against the Chicago Red Stars (2-1-2, 8 points) at Toyota Park, 1-1. The Red Stars struck first in the opening minute, but goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and the Sky Blue FC defense was able to silence their attack the rest of the way. Forward Savannah McCaskill provided the equalizing tally for Sky Blue FC, scoring her first professional goal in the 78th minute.
“We did pretty well with our pressure towards the beginning of the game, and we also created some good opportunities,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach. “After the first 15 minutes or so, it felt like Chicago was able to gain control over the remainder of the first half. They were able to spread us out a bit and made us do a lot of unnecessary running defensively. When we came out in the second half, we definitely started to show more of who we are. We were on the front foot more, and we were able to put better pressure on the ball. Coming from behind a goal on the road and finding a way to get a point is definitely a positive takeaway that we will build upon as we head into training next week.”
Chicago quickly made it a 1-0 match in the 1st minute following a throw-in that landed at the feet of Alyssa Mautz. After collecting it, Mautz touched the ball for Sofia Huerta outside of the 18, and she lofted a drifting shot that sailed over the head of Sheridan.
In the 13th minute, Sky Blue FC appeared to have leveled this match up, as McCaskill collected deep on her end of the pitch before sending a ball up the right flank for a racing Shea Groom. The Sky Blue FC forward sped past a defender as she approached the 18 and two defenders collapsed on her. She then cut a ball to the far side of the area, where Janine Beckie quickly touched before striking it past Red Stars netminder Alyssa Naeher. However, the offside flag went up, and the potential equalizer was nullified.
Sky Blue FC saw a few different shots nearly find their mark throughout the remainder of the opening half. On the other side of the field, Sheridan and her back line continued to hold strong as well, and the 1-0 tally remained when the two teams broke for the halftime intermission.
Sky Blue FC brought that same fight into the second half of this contest, and the 62nd minute again nearly saw an equalizing score. Off a throw-in, Beckie played an overlapping Groom into the penalty area, where she looked to cut a ball to the center of the box. After Raquel Rodriguez was unable to stretch for it, Carli Lloyd put a nice touch on the ball that gave her enough space to fire on frame, but Naeher was able to deflect her attempt out of play.
Another near-tying situation occurred in the 73rd minute on a Sky Blue FC corner kick. After Groom earned the corner, Sarah Killion stepped over it and sent a ball to the far side, where Lloyd put a header on the service that whistled just beyond the post.
The resolve of Sky Blue FC finally paid off in the 78th minute. On the series, Katie Johnson gathered possession and lofted a ball to McCaskill, who was on top of the left side of the 18. McCaskill then touched a couple times to her right to create some space before striking a hard curler on frame that slipped under Naeher to make it a 1-1 contest. The finish by McCaskill officially opened her professional account and goes down as the first goal of her NWSL career.
After the McCaskill equalizer, Sky Blue FC was buzzing in pursuit of the game-winner, but the 1-1 count remained when the final whistle was blown.
Sky Blue FC will now return home to Yurcak Field on Saturday, May 5, hosting the Houston Dash for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Tickets for that match are available now online or by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849).
NWSL Match Report
Match: Sky Blue FC vs. Chicago Red Stars
Date: April 21, 2018
Venue: Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Illinois
Weather: 52 degrees, mostly sunny
NJ: 0 | 1 - 1
CHI: 1 | 0 - 1
1 CHI Sofia Huerta (Alyssa Mautz)
78 NJ Savannah McCaskill (Katie Johnson)
NJ: Sheridan, Freeman (Johnson-66), Stott, Skroski, Gibbons, Rodriguez (Meehan-83), Killion, Lloyd, McCaskill (Tiernan-86), Beckie, Groom
Subs not used: Casey, Hoy, Leon, Abam
Head Coach: Denise Reddy
CHI: Naeher, Comeau, Naughton, Gilliland, Gorden, Huerta, Stanton, Colaprico (Kaskie-90), Vasconcelos (Green-83), Nagasato, Mautz
Subs Not Used: Boyd, Yenney
Head Coach: Rory Dames
Stats Summary: CHI / NJ
Shots: 20 / 11
Saves: 3 / 5
Corner Kicks: 4 / 4
Fouls: 3 / 8
Offside: 4 / 4
Referee: Reyna Fonseca
Assistant Referee 1: Adrienne McDonald
Assistant Referee 2: Gjovalin Bori
Fourth Official: Kyle Hannon