Sky Blue FC (0-13-4, 4 points) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action in dramatic fashion on Sunday evening, earning a 2-2 draw on the road against the Orlando Pride (8-6-6, 30 points) at Orlando City Stadium. After a scoreless first half, the excitement picked up as a back-and-forth second half came down to the wire with Kailen Sheridan saving a penalty kick in the 97th minute to secure the road point.
“I thought we were really well-organized tonight,” said Sky Blue FC head coach Denise Reddy. “We created a few good chances on direct transition in the first half, but we were unable to hold the ball long enough. That made us defend a little more often than we would like. In the second half, we were able to come into our own with a bit more possession and by changing the point of attack. Overall, our players showed so much discipline tonight and worked well together for the entire 90 minutes. As a coach, you really cannot ask for much more than that.”
Both teams created scoring chances in the first half, but it wasn’t until the 51st minute of play that the stalemate was broken. The scoring sequence started with a throw-in by Chioma Ubogagu that went to Dani Weatherholt. Despite being surrounding by several defenders, Weatherholt was able to turn and dribble inside the box before striking a shot that was punched away by Sheridan. The ball then deflected off the far post, and Marta followed up the shot to finish one-time and give her team the 1-0 advantage.
Sky Blue FC responded quickly and tied the game just two minutes later. On that series, Christina Gibbons played Shea Groom, who laid off a feed for McCaskill in the center of the field. After a quick touch, McCaskill then played a ball back to Groom on a run into the box, where she managed to draw in four defenders and create enough separation before finding Dorsey wide open on the other side of the box. Dorsey had time to settle the ball with her left foot before striking a shot past Harris with her right foot to make it a 1-1 game. The goal by Dorsey was her third in four matches.
The New Jersey squad struck again in the 59th minute, taking its first lead of the season. Carli Lloyd delivered a well-placed ball from the left side of the field to the right side of the box for McCaskill. She headed it back towards the center of the box to find Groom who despite being marked, was able to win the aerial battle and send a header home for the 2-1 scoreline.
The Orlando Pride found the equalizer in the 73rd minute when Camila laid off a ball for Weatherholt just outside the penalty area, and she then penetrated into the box with possession. Sheridan came off her line to try and disrupt the play, but the ball redirected off of Weatherholt towards goal and she was able to head it into the net to even the score at two apiece.
In the sixth minute of extra time, Marta sent a corner kick in front of the goal that was initially punched away by Sheridan. The ball was played back in and bounced around inside the box until Lloyd was called for a handball on the goal line, and was sent off with a red card. The result of that play was a penalty kick in favor of Orlando.
Marta stepped to the line to take the penalty in the seventh minute of stoppage time. The Brazilian struck a left-footed strike on frame, but Sheridan was able to deny the likely game-winner. Dorsey ran onto the rebound and cleared it away before the Pride could pounce.
The game ended shortly thereafter with the 2-2 result, and Sky Blue FC earned its first point since June 27th.
The New Jersey squad returns home to Yurcak Field on Saturday, August 11, hosting the Houston Dash for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
NWSL Match Report
Match: Sky Blue FC vs. Orlando Pride
Date: August 5, 2018
Venue: Orlando City Stadium; Orlando, Florida
Weather: 87 degrees, sunny
NJ: 0 | 2 - 2
ORL: 0 | 2 – 2
51 ORL Marta
53 NJ Imani Dorsey (Shea Groom)
59 Shea Groom (Savannah McCaskill)
73 ORL Dani Weatherholt
NJ: Sheridan, Frisbie, Skroski, Freeman, Gibbons, Dorsey, Killion, Rodriguez (Johnson-83), Tiernan (Lloyd-56), Groom (Meehan-62), McCaskill
Subs not used: Casey, Hoy, Pierre-Louis, Stott
Head Coach: Denise Reddy
ORL: Harris, Pressley (Evans-85), Kennedy, Krieger, Nairn (Camila-61), Weatherholt, Van Egmond, Ubogagu, Marta, Hill (Morgan-61), Edmonds
Subs Not Used: Kopmeyer, Zadorsky, Pickett, Monica
Head Coach: Tom Sermanni
Stats Summary: ORL / NJ
Shots: 21 / 9
Saves: 4 / 6
Corner Kicks: 12 / 1
Fouls: 12 / 9
Offside: 3 / 2
32 ORL Kristen Edmonds (Yellow Card)
78 ORL Camila (Yellow Card)
90+3 ORL Alanna Kennedy (Yellow Card)
90+6 NJ Carli Lloyd (Red Card)
Referee: Luis Guardia
Assistant Referee 1: Diego Blas
Assistant Referee 2: Francesco Terranova
Fourth Official: Madzid Coric