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Match Preview: Sky Blue FC vs. North Carolina Courage

Sky Blue FC opens 2018 season on the road against North Carolina

Sky Blue FC
Sky Blue FC will play its first match of the 2018 NWSL season on the road before returning home on April 15th to host Seattle Reign FC at Yurcak Field.
Photo by Jeffrey Auger

Sky Blue FC vs. North Carolina Courage

Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, North Carolina

March 31, 2018

3 p.m. ET

Watch: go90 or NWSLsoccer.com

Sky Blue FC (0-0-0) will begin its 2018 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) campaign on Saturday afternoon when the New Jersey club travels to North Carolina to take on the Courage (1-0-0) for a 3 p.m. ET kickoff at Sahlen’s Stadium in WakeMed Soccer Park. This season will mark Sky Blue’s sixth in the NWSL and ninth overall as a professional club – the only club that has competed in each of the past nine consecutive seasons that professional women’s soccer has existed in the United States.

Fans can watch Saturday’s action live via NWSLsoccer.com and go90. Sky Blue FC is currently unbeaten in its previous five NWSL season openers with a 3-0-2 overall record.

Sky Blue FC had a bye during the first weekend of league play, so the club will finally take the field for the first time during the 2018 regular season. The team will feature many new faces this year, with only 11 players returning from last season.

The two most notable absences for Sky Blue FC will be U.S. Women’s National Team member Kelley O’Hara and the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League MVP and Golden Boot winner, Sam Kerr. O’Hara and Taylor Lytle were traded to Utah Royals FC in exchange for Shea Groom and Christina Gibbons back in December, followed by Sky Blue FC and Seattle working out a deal of their own. The Reign received the rights to Australia international Caitlin Foord and in return, SBFC acquired New Zealand international Rebekah Stott and Mexico international Katlyn Johnson.

Another blockbuster move came during the 2018 NWSL College Draft. Sky Blue FC was involved in a three-team trade that sent Kerr and Nikki Stanton to Chicago, Christen Press to Houston, and Carli Lloyd, Janine Beckie and Jen Hoy to New Jersey.

Other new additions include Brazilian midfielder Thaisa Moreno, who signed with the club in early December, draft picks Michaela Abam and Amandine Pierre-Louis, and the trio of Savannah McCaskill, Adrianna Leon and Amanda Frisbie joining the club via the 2018 NWSL Dispersal Draft.

Sky Blue FC returners this year are goalkeepers Kailen Sheridan and Caroline Casey who accounted for all 2,160 minutes in net that were played last year; defenders Erica Skroski, Mandy Freeman, Kayla Mills, Domi Richardson and Erin Simon; midfielders Sarah Killion, Raquel Rodriguez and Madison Tiernan; and forward McKenzie Meehan.

North Carolina comes into the match with a 1-0 victory against Portland Thorns FC in Week 1 action. Debinha scored the game’s lone goal in the 70th minute off a no-look assist from Denise O’Sullivan, and Crystal Dunn returned to the NWSL after playing for Chelsea in England in 2017.

The scoring sequence began with the Courage switching the field to Jaelene Hinkle, and she played a ball through the Portland midfield line to O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan turned and dribbled quickly towards the penalty area to draw in several Thorns defenders before dishing the ball off to Debinha. The Brazil international collected the pass, then ripped a screamer with her right foot past a diving Adrianna Franch into the back of the net for the game winner.

Sky Blue FC and the Courage met three times during the 2017 NWSL season, with the teams splitting the series at 1-1-1. In their first match-up, North Carolina claimed a 2-0 victory despite Sheridan recording 11 saves. On July 1, these clubs played as the NWSL on Lifetime Game of the Week, and an 84th minute game-winner by Kerr gave Sky Blue FC the road win, 1-0. The final contest came in the 2017 Sky Blue FC home finale at Yurcak Field where the New Jersey side earned a 1-1 draw.

Sky Blue FC returns to Yurcak Field for its 2018 home opener on Sunday, April 15, when the club hosts Seattle Reign FC for a 5 p.m. ET kickoff in Piscataway, NJ.

Injury Report

North Carolina Courage

OUT: Makenzy Doniak (left knee ACL tear – SEI); Liz Eddy (right hamstring strain); Samantha Mewis (right knee strain); Yuri Kawamura (right knee ACL repair – D45); Julie King (left ankle repair)

Sky Blue FC

OUT: Amandine Pierre-Louis (right tibia/fibula contusion), Domi Richardson (illness), Raquel Rodriguez (excused absence), Erin Simon (left foot hardware removal – D45), Madison Tiernan (left turf toe)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Thaisa Moreno (BRA)