Sky Blue FC vs. North Carolina Courage History
Sky Blue FC has faced off against the North Carolina Courage six times in the three years the Courage have been in existence, and the Courage have almost always gotten the better of them. The Courage hold a 4-1-1 advantage over Sky Blue, and they were undefeated against the New Jersey side last season. The most recent meeting between the two was a 4-0 thrashing in favor of the Courage, who would go on to win both the NWSL Shield and Championship.
Sky Blue FC
Last Sunday Sky Blue earned their first point of the season in a 2-2 draw against Portland Thorns FC. Carli Lloyd scored the first Sky Blue goal of 2019 in the contest’s sixth minute before adding a second goal just 12 minutes later. The Lloyd brace gave Sky Blue their first lead of the season—and a multi-goal lead at that—but it was short lived. Christine Sinclair connected with Emily Sonnett, who scored the Thorns’ first goal of the match in the 32 minute, and Tobin Heath brought the game back level with a flashy backheel goal just two minutes later. The game turned into a defensive battle, and the game remained at a stalemate at the final whistle.
North Carolina Courage
Paul Riley’s North Carolina Courage hit the road for the first time this year, where they soundly defeated the Houston Dash, 4-1, at BBVA Compass Stadium. Although Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell was able to save a penalty attempt in the 30th minute to keep the match scoreless, Lynn Williams put one past her in first-half stoppage time to open up scoring on the day. Crystal Dunn, Debinha, and rookie Leah Pruitt all added singles to earn the Courage three more points, keeping them at the top of the league’s table, a spot they’ve gotten quite used to being in.
Sky Blue FC
OUT: Mandy Freeman (right Achilles tendon repair), Domi Richardson (right hip), Madison Tiernan (left ACL/MCL sprain)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Carli Lloyd (USA)
North Carolina Courage:
OUT: Hailey Harbison (left knee), Katelyn Rowland (right shoulder)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Abby Dahlkemper (USA), Crystal Dunn (USA), Jessica McDonald (USA), Sam Mewis (USA)
What to Expect
Both Sky Blue and the Courage will be without their U.S. internationals, which should make Week 4 look much different than previous weeks. Sky Blue will be without Carli Lloyd, their only goal scorer so far this year.
On the other side of the ball, the Courage will be without four key starters: Dunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Jess McDonald, and Sam Mewis. However, even without those four, the Courage will be a team to be reckoned with.
For one, they still have the services of Lynn Williams, a goal-scoring machine in the NWSL who somehow has been left out of USWNT camp as of late. The U.S.’s loss, so to speak, is the Courage’s gain, as they retain the services of one of the most potent strikers in the game. Although Williams accuracy is a point of contention for some fans, her best trait is the ability to create opportunities when other players wouldn’t.
“We, of course, will respect their attacking abilities,” Sky Blue Head Coach Denise Reddy said of Williams and the rest of the Courage attack, “but we are looking to build up and focus on what we do.
“We are going into this game trying to build on the momentum we created against Portland.”
That’s going to be much harder to do without Lloyd leading the attack, but Sky Blue does have a number of other attacking options in Imani Dorsey, Raquel Rodriguez, Nahomi Kawasumi, and Savannah McCaskill, depending on her health. Rookies Paige Monaghan and Julie James have also seen the field for Sky Blue and will likely see minutes on Saturday in Lloyd’s absence.
A more detrimental loss may be that of center back Domi Richardson, who has been ruled out of the match due to a hip injury. With Richardson out, expect Erica Skroski to slide in centrally with either Amandine Pierre-Louis or Jen Hoy, the likelier of the two, replacing her at left back.
Neither Pierre-Louis or Hoy saw much playing time last season, but Hoy has more veteran NWSL experience that will likely be an asset against an attack-heavy team like the Courage. Even so, that leaves the left side of Sky Blue’s defense weak, which the Courage will no doubt take advantage of.
That will no doubt leave goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan with her hands full, as they usually are against the Courage. Despite the results, Sheridan has had an impressive start to the 2019 season, racking up Save of the Week honors the past two weeks and being named to the NWSL Team of the Month for April on Friday.
In her tenure so far with Sky Blue, Sheridan is often the main factor keeping them in games, and that could very much be the case again Saturday night.