Photo by Jose L. Argueta, ISI Photos.
Leah Galton Assists on Goals by Raquel Rodriguez, Sam Kerr
Sky Blue FC (3-3-4, 13 points) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Saturday night, putting forth a great team performance to defeat the host Washington Spirit (5-2-2, 17 points) at the Maryland SoccerPlex, 2-1. Scoring goals in the contest were Raquel Rodriguez and Sam Kerr, with Leah Galton assisting on both tallies.
“We are delighted with the result, although our performance was a little bit patchy at times,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “We got to see two sides of the team tonight. First of all, we showed our ability and decisions on the ball, and we were also able to have more moments where we really dominated possession. In the last 15-20 minutes of the game, it was fantastic to see our team work together as a unit and fight it out until the final whistle.”
Sky Blue FC got on the board in the 8th minute of this matchup, making good on a series that started after Galton acquired possession on the left flank and raced into the area by the corner flag. She then pulled back and sent a hard roller to Rodriguez, who immediately rifled a shot that blew past an outstretched Stephanie Labbe to give Sky Blue FC a 1-0 advantage. The strike marked the first professional goal for Rodriguez, and it was also the first tally that the Spirit had allowed at the SoccerPlex this season in five home games.
The lead was nearly extended to two goals in the 31st minute after Galton served a ball from the left flank that was eventually collected by U.S. international Kelley O’Hara on the opposite side of the offensive end. O’Hara then sent a well-struck cross into the area that found the head of a diving Tasha Kai. However, Labbe was perfectly positioned for the shot attempt and made the save.
In the 63rd minute, Holly brought on Kerr, and the decision immediately paid dividends. Less than a minute into her shift, Galton collected in the midfield and began to speed down the left flank. She looked up and saw Kerr on the far side of the 18, quickly serving her a looping ball. Kerr then positioned herself before striking a diving half volley that shredded the back netting. The scoring notch was the first of the season for Kerr, who was seeing action for just the second time of her 2016 campaign.
Washington eventually closed the gap to 2-1 in the 77th minute. Midfielder Estefania Banini played Diana Matheson in front of the goal, where Matheson was able to put a head on the feed to direct it towards the target. Sky Blue FC netminder Caroline Stanley showed good reflexes in getting a hand on the shot, but she was unable to clear it from danger.
Action intensified even further over the remaining minutes as the Spirit fought for an equalizer, but Sky Blue FC held its ground and refused to leave any points on the field. When the final whistle eventually blew to conclude this encounter, the team headed back to New Jersey with three critical road points and the deserved win.
“Every one of our players deserves a huge amount of credit,” Holly stated. “Their attitudes towards winning and working together as a team tonight were incredible. This truly is a special group that we have wearing the Sky Blue FC shield for us.”
Next up for Sky Blue FC is a road fixture with Portland Thorns FC on Saturday, July 2nd, and the team will return to Yurcak Field on Saturday, July 9th, to host the Houston Dash. Tickets for that match are available now.
Half-season, flex and individual tickets for Sky Blue FC are all on sale! For any questions regarding tickets, call the Sky Blue FC tickets department at 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849), and a team representative will be happy to assist you.
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: Washington Spirit vs. Sky Blue FC
Date: June 25, 2016
Venue: Maryland SoccerPlex; Boyds, Maryland
Weather: 78 degrees, sunny
WAS: 0 1 - 1
NJ: 1 1 - 2
8 Raquel Rodriguez (Leah Galton)
64 Sam Kerr (Leah Galton)
77 Diana Matheson (Estefania Banini)
NJ: Stanley; O'Hara, Grubka, Rampone, Skroski; Rodriguez, Killion, Galton, Simon (Stanton-78), Lytle, Kai (Kerr-64)
Subs not used: Casey, Goodson, DeCesare, Gordon
Head Coach: Christy Holly
WAS: Labbe, Kleiner (Farquharson-78), Zadorsky, Oyster, Krieger, Nairn (Lohman-66), Huster, Matheson, Dunn, Ordega (Stengel-46), Banini
Subs not used: Wys, Dydasco, Church, Williams
Head Coach: Jim Gabarra
Stats Summary: WAS / NJ
Shots: 7 / 5
Shots on Goal: 5 / 4
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 9 / 2
Fouls: 5 / 6
Offside: 1 / 4
Referee: Leszek Stalmach
Assistant Referee 1: Sean Regan
Assistant Referee 2: Maggie Short
Fourth Official: Corson Fidler
Pine Belt of Lakewood Player of the Match: Raquel Rodriguez