Sky Blue FC opened its sixth National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season on Saturday, playing a road match with the North Carolina Courage in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. The New Jersey club held strong for more than 90 minutes into the contest, but a stoppage time goal from Courage forward Jessica McDonald ultimately provided a 1-0 result in favor of the hosts.
“I felt that we did really well in the first half. We were able to possess the ball for longer periods of time, and we prevented them from getting behind our back line,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach. “In the second half, we lost some of our rhythm and were unable to keep possession as long. We spent so much time defending that we started to get ourselves pinned back a bit.”
The opening half of play displayed some spirited competition between the two sides. Sky Blue FC saw the better of the possession, while North Carolina held the shot advantage. Using quick passes to move the ball upfield, Sky Blue FC did well in the middle of the park and created its share of opportunities, but the match remained scoreless when the action broke for the halftime intermission.
In the 54th minute, the Courage nearly split open the deadlock when Crystal Dunn sent a ball into space for a racing Kristen Hamilton, which played her into a 1v1 situation with Sky Blue FC netminder Kailen Sheridan. The Canada international came off her line to close down the available angles, and that forced Hamilton to slightly rush her shot. Her ensuing strike then hit the post, keeping the North Carolina account closed for the time-being.
The Courage continued to press on the offensive end, with Sheridan and the Sky Blue FC back line doing well to keep the net clean until the second minute of stoppage time arrived.
In one of the final sequences of the match, Jaelene Hinkle raced through the midfield with possession before sending a ball to McDonald that split a pair of defenders as she ran into the box. Once McDonald collected, she touched the ball right and forced Sheridan off her line. As the Sky Blue FC defensive unit sped back to recover, McDonald found herself with enough space to cut a ball towards the target and into the goal. The late tally would prove to be the game-winner.
Following a FIFA break next weekend, Sky Blue FC will host Seattle Reign FC for a 5:00 p.m. kickoff in its home opener at Yurcak Field on Sunday, April 15. Tickets for that match are available now online or by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849).
2018 Sky Blue FC season, half-season and individual game tickets are all on sale now, and fans can purchase tickets by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849). 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. North Carolina Courage
Date: March 31, 2018
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, North Carolina
Weather: 64 degrees, sunny
NJ: 0 | 0 - 0
NC: 0 | 1 - 1
90+2 NC Jessica McDonald (Jaelene Hinkle)
NJ: Sheridan, Freeman, Stott, Skroski, Gibbons, Beckie (Meehan-69), Killion, Lloyd, McCaskill, Johnson (Leon-58), Groom (Abam-78)
Subs not used: Casey, Mills, Hoy
Head Coach: Denise Reddy
NC: D’Angelo, Hinkle, Erceg, Dahlkemper, Mathias, O’Sullivan (Speck-79), Zerboni, Hamilton (McDonald-55), Williams, Debinha (Jenkins-86), Dunn
Subs Not Used: Chapman, Rowland, Crouse, Kurtz
Head Coach: Paul Riley
Stats Summary: NC / NJ
Shots: 23 / 3
Saves: 0 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 3
Fouls: 6 / 7
Offside: 3 / 2
66 NJ Christina Gibbons
86 NJ Rebekah Stott
Referee: Danielle Chesky
Assistant Referee 1: Jennifer Garner
Assistant Referee 2: Jordan Davis
Fourth Official: Forrest Ambrose