For the second year in a row Sky Blue traveled out to Seattle for the first game of the season. Last year's 2-1 victory would have been ideal, but the target was largely to secure at least a point on the road to claim a successful start to the new campaign. That target was hit: SBFC tied the Reign, 1-1, to kick off the 2017 season with solid performance and a point to show for it.
Sky Blue set the tempo early and had numerous opportunities to take a lead into halftime, but were unable to convert any of chances. Multiple balls were sent to the feet of Sam Kerr and Leah Galton only to have the shot go wide or into the hands of the Reign’s goalkeeper, Haley Kopmeyer.
By the time the first 45 minutes were at an end, Sky Blue led the game with four corners and nine shots on goal; Seattle had registered just one corner and three shots on goal.
SBFC wasted little time in the second half to try and earn the first goal of the game. The speed of Galton and Kerr got behind the Reign’s backline multiple times, but once again their shots were stopped by Kopmeyer.
The 56th minute saw the Reign get the decisive chance it had been seeking. Megan Rapinoe got into the box and was eventually tripped up by Erica Skroski forcing the referee to award Seattle with a penalty. At least, that's the way the ref saw it. Not everyone necessarily agreed.
Well that was not the way I thought the scoring would start in this game. #NWSL #SEAvSBFC— RJ Allen ⚽️✍ (@CaptainWOSO) April 16, 2017
You know #NWSL season has truly begun when the reffing makes you go pic.twitter.com/ZJDCtZGT5Z— thrace (@thrace) April 16, 2017
Rapinoe took the penalty herself, converting the spot kick to put the Reign 1-0 up.
A mere six minutes later, Sky Blue found the referee in an even-handed mood. Sam Kerr played in Kelley O’Hara, who was taken down inside the box. Nothing if not consistent, the referee whistled for another penalty. Sarah Killion leveled the score from the spot.
62' @SkyBlueFC ties it up with a penalty kick from Killion #SEAvNJ pic.twitter.com/2hOXgv1Rbw— NWSL (@NWSL) April 16, 2017
Neither team seemed content with a tie, and the rest of the game saw both 'keepers - Seattle’s Kopmeyer and Sky Blue’s Kailen Sheridan - called upon repeatedly. They held firm and the pair of penalties would provide the game's only goals. The match ended 1-1.
A point on the road is not disappointing, but Sky Blue will know that better finishing could have put this game out of Seattle's reach. As such, despite the lively attacking effort, the biggest positive from the season opener has to be the play of Sky Blue’s defense. All three draft picks were in the starting lineup with Mandy Freeman and Kayla Mills as defenders and Kailen Sheridan in goal. The defense was joined with second year player Erica Skroski and USWNT legend Christie Pearce (formerly, Rampone). The four young players around Pearce were not out of place, putting in a solid performance that held Seattle to a single goal and sent SBFC with its first point of 2017 from its first game of the year.
Sky Blue will be back in action next Saturday at 4:00 EST, on the road against Boston Breakers. The game will be broadcast on go90.