Sophie Schmidt (right) scored the go-ahead goal for Sky Blue FC (Photo by Howard C. Smith).
Sky Blue FC and Chicago Red Stars Battle to Level Terms at Yurcak Field
Sky Blue FC (2-1-1, 7 points) and the visiting Chicago Red Stars (0-2-2, 2 points) exchanged a pair of late goals on Wednesday night, dramatically closing out a 1-1 result at Yurcak Field. The home club got on the board first with an 88th minute tally from Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt, only to see former Sky Blue FC striker Alyssa Mautz answer with a stoppage time goal to level terms four minutes later.
Sky Blue FC created its first dangerous opportunity in the 17th minute after some crafty footwork from forward Danesha Adams led to a throw-in for her side. After receiving the ensuing feed, Australian striker Lisa De Vanna fed it forward to a streaking Monica Ocampo. The Mexican forward then raced towards the opposing goal, but the ball was just beyond her reach and where Red Stars netminder Erin McLeod was able to clean it up.
The wet playing conditions made it difficult for both teams to operate in this match, and the weather caused some footing issues that initially slowed down the amount of legitimate chances on frame. However, Chicago did offer a scare to the Sky Blue FC fans in attendance late in the first half, with forward Ella Masar earning a breakaway in the 44th minute after a side-stepping touch with her right foot. With real estate in front of her, she fired a rope towards the goal that sailed just wide of the far post.
That scoring chance proved to be the last true opportunity for either side in the first 45 minutes of action, and a scoreless tally stood when the two teams broke for intermission.
The Red Stars were again on the attack in the 64th minute of play, following a possession that ended with midfielder Lori Chalupny in a 1v1 situation in front of Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron. Chalupny then hit a strike on the ball, but Cameron was able to quickly close the gap and make a diving save on the shot.
The action started heating up in final 15 minutes, with both sides creating some opportunities on each end of the field. U.S. National Team playmaker Kelley O’Hara nearly put her team on the board in the 78th minute when she shook her defender to find just enough space to get an attempt toward the Chicago goal. She then fired a shot with her right foot that slipped inches from the outside of the far frame. Four minutes later, Australian defender Caitlin Foord again came within inches of giving Sky Blue FC the lead after one-touching a ball through the opposing defense to find herself alone with McLeod. Foord then struck a hard shot that she tried to place over the head of McLeod, but her attempt hit just under the crossbar and bounced back into play where the Red Stars defense was able to clear it from danger.
After that series of close calls, Sky Blue FC was finally able to close the door on another legitimate scoring opportunity. The Chicago defense had seemingly cleared a dangerous ball, only to see it fall at the feet of defender Kendall Johnson on the right corner of the 18-yard box. She then settled before sending a well struck cross back towards the offense. There awaiting the feed was Schmidt, who was able to put a hard header on the distribution, earning her team-leading third goal of the season to give her side the late 1-0 lead.
With three minutes added to stoppage time, the Red Stars went on the attack. After getting a 92nd minute corner kick, the road club’s late aggression finally paid off. Once that ensuing kick was sent into the box, it dangerously bounced around before Mautz was able to get a foot on the ball, chipping it over the head and out of the reach of Cameron.
With not much time remaining on the clock, the final seconds elapsed before any additional scoring occurred. After an exuberant close to the match, a 1-1 count was the result.
Next up for Sky Blue FC is a Saturday home pairing with Seattle Reign FC at Yurcak Field, with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m. Tickets for that game are available now and can be purchased by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (723-2849).