Nogueira (left) provided the game-winner for Sky Blue FC in the 26th minute (Photo by Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
Team Extends its Franchise Record Unbeaten Streak to Five Games
Sky Blue FC (3-3-3, 12 points) evened its record at the midway point of the season on Wednesday night, defeating the Atlanta Beat (1-8-3) by a tally of 1-0 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway. Striker Casey Nogueira provided the game-winner by scoring an unassisted corner kick in the 26th minute, with that notch extending a franchise record unbeaten streak to five consecutive games and keeping Sky Blue FC unbeaten at home this season.
Sky Blue FC wasted little time in grabbing hold of the tempo in this match, and its first legitimate scoring opportunity came in the opening minute. On that play, Nogueira stole a loose ball in the midfield and quickly turned her intentions upward. As she raced down the left flank, she saw an opening and fed a through ball to Finnish international Laura Kalmari on the right side of the box. Kalmari collected the ball and put a shot on frame, but Atlanta goalkeeper Allison Whitworth was able to save the attempt. Nogueira again made some noise in the sixth minute when she received a long ball on the left side of the penalty area, sidestepping the defense and firing a laser that Whitworth was able to stop.
The home side kept bringing the pressure, and the 19th minute almost saw the go-ahead tally get put on the board. Nogueira again provided the feed on the opportunity, finding midfielder Allie Long racing through the center of the Beat defense and into a 1v1 situation with Whitworth. The former Tar Heel quickly gathered the ball and struck a hard shot towards the frame, but the Atlanta netminder was again there to make the save.
In the 26th minute of the match, Nogueira again shined on a set piece chance. After a Beat clearance resulted in a corner kick, the two-time NCAA Player of the Year stepped over the ball on the right side of the field. After hitting the ball with her right foot, she put just enough English on the attempt that the ball bent back towards the frame and sailed over the head of Whitworth and into the net. Just past the midway point of the opening half, Sky Blue FC saw itself enjoying a 1-0 advantage.
The play got a bit tighter in the second half, and Sky Blue FC did experience its share of nervous moments on the defensive end of the field. However, goalkeeper Jenni Branam was very solid in net for her team, as was the back line playing in front of her that consisted of Carrie Dew, Kendall Fletcher, Danielle Johnson and captain Brittany Taylor. First-year defender Jennie Clark also contributed to the cause after she replaced Johnson in the 72nd minute.
The host side continued to create on the offensive end as well, but the Nogueira notch in the first half would eventually prove to be the difference in this outing. When the final whistle was blown, Sky Blue FC saw itself a 1-0 victor, claiming the ever-important three points and leveling its overall record.
Next up for Sky Blue FC is a road pairing with the Philadelphia Independence on Wednesday, July 6th. The team returns home to Yurcak Field on Saturday, July 9th, to host magicJack SC at 7:00 p.m.
Video Interview: Carrie Dew and Casey Nogueira
Video Interview: Head Coach Jim Gabarra