Sky Blue FC (0-8-1, 1 point) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Saturday night, suffering a 2-1 loss to the Utah Royals FC (3-2-5, 14 points) at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ. Shea Groom scored the lone tally for the New Jersey club, marking her first goal of the 2018 campaign.
“It took a little while to break down the game, but I felt that we really found our rhythm in the second half,” said Sky Blue FC head coach Denise Reddy. “We made some changes to our formation during halftime to get on the front foot and put players in more positive areas. Following those adjustments, we were able to create some good opportunities, but we have to do a better job of closing more of our chances.”
Both sides were missing familiar faces due to a recent call-up for upcoming U.S. Women’s National Team friendlies this June. For Sky Blue FC, midfielder Carli Lloyd and forward Savannah McCaskill were absent for NWSL competition this weekend. For Utah Royals FC, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, goalkeeper Abby Smith and forward Amy Rodriguez were unavailable.
Utah got on the scoreboard quickly in this match, converting in the third minute of play. The scoring sequence began when Gunnhildur Jonsdottir picked off a ball in the midfield, then played a quick give-and-go with Taylor Lytle. Jonsdottir then carried possession down the left flank and centered a cross into the Sky Blue FC box. Diana Matheson was running in towards the far post and slid into a one-timer that rocketed over goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan’s head and put the Royals up 1-0.
Sky Blue FC responded just seven minutes later with an equalizer. Defender Amanda Frisbie played a ball down the left side of the field and into the path of Katie Johnson, who was making a run into the box. Johnson then passed the ball with the outside of her right foot to Groom in the middle of the penalty area. Groom one-timed her shot as she was pressured by several Royals defenders and beat the outstretched arms of Nicole Barnhart to tie the game. The goal marked the first time Sky Blue FC scored in the first half this season.
The New Jersey side was forced to make an early substitution after Frisbie collided with a couple of Royals players and was forced to leave the game. Domi Richardson subbed on and played center back alongside Mandy Freeman while Rebekah Stott rotated out wide to play left back. After some back-and-forth play, the score remained tied 1-1 at halftime.
Both teams created several chances early in the second half to pull ahead. The first came for Sky Blue in the 55th minute when Stott played Johnson at the top of the box. The Mexico international then back-heeled a pass for Madison Tiernan, who took one touch before ripping a shot with her left foot just over the crossbar.
In the 62rd minute, Utah had some possession inside and around the 18-yard box and eventually found forward Katrina Gorry inside the arc. She hammered a shot towards net and forced Sheridan to make a diving save to keep the game tied at one goal apiece.
The game-winner came in the 85th minute in favor of Utah Royals FC. The scoring sequence began when a ball was sent upfield for Jonsdottir, and she took a touch to make her way down the right flank. She then attempted to deliver a cross into the box for Katie Stengel, who was being tracked down by defender Mandy Freeman. Freeman attempted to disrupt the play, but instead her deflection redirected into the net for an own goal.
At the final whistle, the score remained 2-1 as Utah earned its first road win of the season. Sky Blue FC returns to NWSL action on Friday, June 8 when the New Jersey club hosts the Washington Spirit for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Yurcak Field.
NWSL Match Report
Match: Sky Blue FC vs. Utah Royals FC
Date: June 2, 2018
Venue: Yurcak Field; Piscataway, New Jersey
Weather: 87 degrees, overcast
NJ: 1 | 0 - 1
UTA: 1 | 1 – 2
3’ UTA Diana Matheson (Gunnhildur Jonsdottir)
10’ NJ Shea Groom (Katie Johnson)
85’ UTA (NJ Own Goal)
NJ: Sheridan, Frisbie (Richardson-31), Stott, Freeman, Gibbons, Thaisa (Rodriguez-62), Beckie, Killion, Groom, Johnson (Hoy-76), Tiernan
Subs not used: Gunion, Meehan, Dorsey, Abam
Head Coach: Denise Reddy
UTA: Barnhart, Moros, Miramontez, Corsie, Elby, Jonsdottir, Gorry (Thorsnes-75), Scott, Lytle (LaBonta-66), Stengel (Ratcliffe-87), Matheson
Subs Not Used: Proctor, Bowen, Newfield, Tymrak
Head Coach: Laura Harvey
Stats Summary: NJ / UTA
Shots: 9 / 7
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 8 / 5
Fouls: 3 / 13
Offside: 4 / 5
90’ NJ Madison Tiernan (Yellow Card)
Referee: Lorant Varga
Assistant Referee 1: Walter Heatherly
Assistant Referee 2: Matthew Osterhouse
Fourth Official: Szczepan Dziewa