On May 8th, Sky Blue FC was leading Chicago Red Stars 1-0 as stoppage time began. The New Jersey side had started off the month dropping their first points of the season, losing 2-1 to Western NY in Rochester, and was looking to bounce back against the winless Red Stars. But into the first minute of stoppage, former Sky Blue midfielder Alyssa Mautz got on the end of a corner kick to even the score at one, which is how the match would end, leaving Sky Blue on a two game winless streak.
Three weeks and four matches later, the New Jersey side is top of the table, winning four straight, and not allowing a single goal since Mautz's 91st minute tally. After Chicago, Sky Blue hosted bottom of the table Seattle, coming away with a 2-0 win. Then a three game road swing, where the Jersey side picked up a 1-0 victory in Portland, handing the Thorns their first loss of the season and taking over first place on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Three days later, Sky Blue headed to Seattle, topping the Reign again, this time by a 3-0 score. Center back and captain Christie Rampone, the oldest player in NWSL at 37, earned Player of the Week honors for her work anchoring the Sky Blue defense through the two matches. But even after a successful swing through the Pacific Northwest, the New Jersey team still had one more road match before returning home to Yurcak Field. That one took place Saturday night in Overland Park, Kansas, where Sky Blue took on FC Kansas City for the first time this season. Perhaps the most technical team in NWSL, FCKC would provide a different kind of test than the mostly long ball game of Portland, and certainly a different test than two games against a Seattle side still looking to find its footing.
It would take just 22 minutes for Sky Blue to find the back of the net, in a play that cost Kansas City more than just a goal, with Canadian international Lauren Sesselmann being sent off after taking down Lisa De Vanna inside the 18. Sophie Schmidt converted the penalty to give Sky Blue the 1-0 lead, and Brittany Cameron and the Sky Blue defense were able to contain some late pressure from Kansas City to keep both the winning and shutout streaks alive.
Before Schmidt's goal, there was a scary moment for Sky Blue FC though. In the 20th minute Kelley O'Hara landed awkwardly as she challenged for a ball in the air. O'Hara appeared to injure her ankle on the play, and would be replaced by Taylor Lytle. The U.S. international did join the USWNT for camp ahead of the team's June 2nd friendly against Canada in Toronto. O'Hara is listed as day-to-day by U.S. Soccer.
Two minutes later, De Vanna picked off a poor touch by Jen Buczkowski at midfield and raced towards the Kansas City goal. The Australian international was initially well-defended by Becky Sauerbrunn, who was able to knock the ball off De Vanna's feet, but not out of danger. De Vanna continued to fight for the ball and Sesselmann grabbed the Sky Blue striker's shirt, dragging her to the ground inside the 18 yard box. Referee John McCloskey didn't hesitate in reaching for his pocket, issuing a straight red card to Sesselmann and awarding a penalty kick to Sky Blue FC. Schmidt stepped to the spot and was able to tuck the ball just past FCKC goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart to give Sky Blue the lead. The goal was Schmidt's league-leading fifth of the season.
Despite playing the rest of the match down a player, Kansas City continued to look for the equalizer. Kansas City outshot Sky Blue 13-10 on the night. Renae Cuellar, who leads Kansas City with four goals, including the first in NWSL history, nearly found the equalizer in stoppage time. Cuellar, alone on Cameron, was able to get a touch on a ball from Lauren Cheney, but the Sky Blue keeper came off her line to meet the Kansas City striker, blocking Cuellar's attempt to preserve the clean sheet.
Sky Blue FC now returns home to Yurcak Field to take on the Boston Breakers for the first time this season on Saturday. Both sides will be without their U.S. and Canadian internationals, as those two teams will play for the first time since the dramatic Olympic semi-final last summer in London. Sky Blue will lose just one Canadian international in Schmidt. The U.S. players headed to Toronto from Sky Blue are O'Hara, Rampone and goalkeeper Jillian Loyden, who's yet to see game action since returning from a broken hand suffered while she was with the USWNT during the Algarve Cup in March.