Photo by Andy Mead, ISI Photos.
Sky Blue FC Defeats North Carolina on 84th Minute Game-Winner
Playing in its third game in less than a week, Sky Blue FC (6-6-1, 19 points) took some heavy legs into WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday and grinded out a hard-fought road win over the first-place North Carolina Courage (8-4-0, 24 points), 1-0. The New Jersey club saw an incredible effort throughout its entire roster in this contest, with another dramatic game-winner coming in the closing minutes of the match.
“I could not be any prouder of this set of players,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “They overcame tremendous adversity with having to play in three different states over six days. For our team to step up and perform the way they did today says everything about the ability, and more importantly the character of every individual associated with this organization.”
No matter the situation, Sky Blue FC has proven this year that it is a team that will give its all until the final whistle has been blown, and today was most certainly no different.
Heading into the final stretch of this match-up, which aired as the NWSL on Lifetime Game of the Week, neither side had been able to break though until Sky Blue FC did so in the 84th minute. On the sequence, Leah Galton was played into space on the left flank by Nikki Stanton. After gathering the distribution, the England international stepped around a defender before dancing past another on her way to the end line. Before she arrived there, she sent a cross towards the near post, where Maya Hayes had intelligently planted herself after seeing the difficult angle that Galton had. Once the ball got to her, the New Jersey native flicked it to a wide-open Sam Kerr behind her, and the Australia international one-timed the feed past Courage netminder Katelyn Rowland to score what would become the game-winner.
The goal for Kerr is her sixth of the season and has her one off the league lead. Additionally, the tally was the 32nd of her NWSL career and currently places her a single notch behind North Carolina forward Jess McDonald for the all-time record. Also of note in this fixture is the clean slate by first-year goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, her second of the year. The shutout by Sheridan and Sky Blue FC was also the first time that any NWSL team had blanked the Courage this season.
In the 4th minute of this match-up, Sky Blue FC saw a scary moment after Makenzy Doniak was played into the area and tried to run down a ball that was initially stopped by Sheridan. However, Doniak touched it from her possession and immediately took a point-blank shot on frame. Perfectly positioned to stop the would-be goal was Sky Blue FC captain Christie Pearce, who chested the ball into the hands of Sheridan.
Sky Blue FC then began to settle more comfortably into its attack, creating a handful of opportunities on the offensive end. One such chance was a Daphne Corboz shot that whistled off the left post, while the trio of Kerr, Hayes and Kelley O’Hara were also heavily involved in the action. However, this match remained scoreless when the halftime whistle was blown.
In the 54th minute, North Carolina midfielder Samantha Mewis was played into the left side of the area, and Sheridan came off her line in an effort to collect the loose ball. As Sheridan got there, she and Mewis got tangled up, and a Courage penalty was awarded. On the ensuing penalty try, Mewis stepped over the ball before striking it to her left, but Sheridan was there to make a critical diving save that kept the game scoreless.
After the huge save by Sheridan, both sides continued to battle for the go-ahead tally, and it would be Sky Blue FC that found it in the 84th minute when Galton and Hayes set up the Kerr game-winner.
With this result, Sky Blue FC has now played eight road games on the season, and the team will host seven of its remaining 11 regular-season contests in New Jersey.
Sky Blue FC returns home to Yurcak Field next Saturday, July 8, hosting FC Kansas City for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff. Individual tickets for that match are available now online or 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: July 1, 2016
Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, North Carolina
Weather: 87 degrees, hot
NJ: 0 | 1 - 1
NC: 0 | 0 - 0
84 NJ Sam Kerr (Maya Hayes)
NJ: Sheridan, Simon (Freeman-24), Skroski (Galton-79), Pearce, O’Hara, Tiernan, Rodriguez (Stanton-63), Killion, Corboz, Kerr, Hayes
Subs not used: Casey, Lytle, Meehan, Richardson
Head Coach: Christy Holly
NC: Rowland, Speck, Erceg, Dahlkemper, Smith, Doniak (McDonald-69), Zerboni, Mewis, Debinha, Hamilton (Witteman-33, Eddy-83), Hatch
Subs Not Used: D’Angelo, Williams, Hinkle, Ochs
Head Coach: Paul Riley
Stats Summary: NC / NJ
Shots: 15 / 7
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 6 / 1
Fouls: 12 / 12
Offside: 2 / 2
67 NJ Erica Skroski (Yellow Card)
80 NC Sam Witteman (Yellow Card)
Referee: Greg Dopka
Assistant Referee 1: Cory Richardson
Assistant Referee 2: Trent Vanhaitsma
Fourth Official: Javier Rodriguez