Sky Blue FC (0-13-3, 3 points) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Saturday night, falling to Portland Thorns FC (8-5-5, 29 points) 2-1 at Yurcak Field. A second half surge by Sky Blue FC was not enough to earn at least one point as shots hit everything but the back of the net.
“Honestly, this was not even a one-point performance for me. I felt we played well enough to earn three points,” said Sky Blue FC head coach Denise Reddy. “We created some of our best chances of the year tonight, especially in the second half. Collectively, our players did exactly what we asked them to do. Even when we were down two-nil, nobody hung their heads, and we got ourselves back into the game. Everyone was playing with a great amount of energy, and I am very proud of the performance that our team put forth.”
Both teams were missing several key players due to international call-ups. Sky Blue FC was without Carli Lloyd (USA) and Katie Johnson (MEX), while the Thorns had Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Adrianna Franch and Emily Sonnett absent from the match as they prepare for the upcoming Tournament of Nations with the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Portland opened up scoring in the 4th minute of play when a deflection redirected towards Christine Sinclair, and she one-timed a pass to split the Sky Blue FC defense and find Hayley Raso making a run up the left flank. Raso penetrated towards goal, then cut inside to get around Domi Richardson and blast a shot past netminder Caroline Casey to give the visiting side a 1-0 advantage.
The Thorns doubled its lead in the 7th minute when Raso applied high pressure on Casey, and Casey attempted to play the ball out of the back with her feet. However, the clearance was intercepted by Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic who was just outside the box. After settling the ball, she passed it into the lower left corner to give the Thorns a 2-0 tally.
Sky Blue FC struck back in the 27th minute off of some combination play from the midfield into the attack third. After gaining possession in the midfield, Thaisa volleyed a ball for Shea Groom, who then headed it to the feet of Savannah McCaskill. Imani Dorsey started making a diagonal run towards the box, and McCaskill had the awareness to split a couple of defenders a play a ball into the path of Dorsey. Dorsey was then able to strike a ball past Britt Eckerstrom, and despite the shot being deflected, it bounced into the open net. That same 2-1 score would remain when the two sides broke for intermission.
Throughout the second half, Sky Blue FC was firing shot after shot in attempt to at least earn one point on the night, but the New Jersey side was unable to convert again in the contest. Shots hit the post, crossbar and fell victim to saves as Sky Blue FC outshot the Thorns 18-8 at the final whistle.
One of Sky Blue FC’s closest chances came in the 81st minute off a free kick from about 25 yards out. After Groom touched the ball into play, Raquel Rodriguez rocketed a shot that struck the crossbar and was just inches from equalizing.
The final minutes of this contest saw Sky Blue FC continue to create goal-scoring opportunities and put pressure on Eckerstrom. In the fourth minute of stoppage time, McCaskill played Dorsey into the center of the box, where she saw a well-struck ball kick-saved by Eckerstrom. Janine Beckie then put the rebound on frame, but her shot was knocked away by Ellie Carpenter. The scramble in front of the box eventually went out of bounds for a corner kick, and the attempted ball to Dorsey was knocked away by Eckerstrom for another corner kick. The second corner attempt saw Sky Blue unable to break through the Thorns defense, and the final whistle blew with the final score 2-1 in favor of Portland.
Sky Blue FC hits the road next weekend as the club travels to Chicago to take on the Red Stars for a Saturday night fixture. The match kicks off at 8 p.m. ET.
NWSL Match Report
Match: Sky Blue FC vs. Portland Thorns FC
Date: July 21, 2018
Venue: Yurcak Field; Piscataway, New Jersey
Weather: 68 degrees, rainy
NJ: 1 | 0 - 1
POR: 2 | 0 – 2
4 POR Hayley Raso (Christine Sinclair)
7 POR Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic
27 NJ Imani Dorsey (Savannah McCaskill)
NJ: Casey, Frisbie, Richardson, Freeman, Dorsey, Skroski, Killion, Thaisa (Rodriguez-78), Tiernan (Beckie-68), Groom (Meehan-82), McCaskill
Subs not used: Sheridan, Gibbons, Stott, Pierre-Louis
Head Coach: Denise Reddy
POR: Eckerstrom, Carpenter, Reynolds (Ball-46), Menges, Klingenberg, Boureille, Salem (Weber-84), Raso, Sinclair, Andressinha (Lussi-69), Crnogorcevic
Subs Not Used: Geist, Hubly, Onumonu, Foord
Head Coach: Mark Parsons
Stats Summary: NJ / POR
Shots: 18 / 8
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 4
Fouls: 11 / 7
Offside: 5 / 3
80 POR Christine Sinclair (Yellow Card)
Referee: Reyna Fonseca
Assistant Referee 1: Ian McKay
Assistant Referee 2: Zeno Gyuho Cho
Fourth Official: Dave Breckner