Yurcak Field, Rutgers University, Piscataway Township, N.J.
Saturday, July 14, 2018
7:00 p.m. ET
Watch: go90.com/app (U.S. fans) or NWSLSoccer.com/NWSL app (international fans)
Sky Blue FC (0-11-3, 3 points) closes out its 2018 series against the top-ranked North Carolina Courage (13-1-3, 42 points) Saturday night at Yurcak Field. The match marks the third and final time the two teams will meet this year, and will be the second edition to take place at Sky Blue’s home field.
The New Jersey-based club will look to play spoiler to the Courage, who are one win (and some favorable results) away from booking the first spot in the 2018 NWSL playoffs. The Courage will clinch a playoff spot if they leave Yurcak with all three points as long as Seattle defeats Chicago or Utah draws with Orlando. The Courage will also reserve their spot in the postseason with a combination of a Chicago win, any result other than a draw between Utah and Orlando, and a Houston win or draw against Portland.
North Carolina can also secure a home playoff match with a win over Sky Blue combined with Chicago and Portland losses and a draw between Utah and Orlando.
Sky Blue, on the other hand, is falling further and further away from the playoff race. Although neither they nor any other team can be eliminated this weekend, the bottom-ranked team sits 39 points behind the league-leading Courage, a point margin that’s on pace to set a new league record.
Sky Blue’s current 14-game winless streak has already broken league records for the worst start to a season and the longest winless streak.
On Saturday they will hope to find a way to end that streak and prevent the Courage from earning a playoff berth for at least another week. Their work will be cut out for them though, as North Carolina holds a 3-1-1 all-time record against them, and they’ve fallen to the Courage 1-0 and 2-1 in their previous two meetings this year.
The first of those two matches came in Week 2, when Sky Blue played their season opener on the road in North Carolina. The visitors played some of their best soccer of the season in the match’s opening half and managed to hold the Courage scoreless Jessica McDonald put the game winner away in the 92nd minute.
In their second meeting, Sky Blue managed to get on the scoreboard courtesy of Carli Lloyd, but her garbage-time goal wasn’t enough to overcome a two-nil deficit North Carolina had created in the opening 30 minutes of the match.
The Courage aren’t invincible though, as the Utah Royals proved on June 16 when a goal by Brittany Ratcliffe in the 94th minute handed the Courage their one and, so far, only loss of the season.
Although many fans may have already written an L by Sky Blue for Week 16, the NWSL has proven time and time again that anything can happen. Although the odds seem to lie heavily in North Carolina’s favor, Sky Blue is not counting themselves out just yet and, hopefully, that’ll lend itself to an entertaining match come Saturday night.
Sky Blue FC
OUT: Michaela Abam (left knee tendinitis), Jen Hoy (right knee sprain), Raquel Rodriguez (back spasms)
QUESTIONABLE: Rebekah Stott (back strain)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None
North Carolina Courage
OUT: Elizabeth Eddy (left quadriceps strain-D45), Julie King (left ankle repair), Jessica McDonald (excused absence)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None