Sky Blue FC (0-2-2, 2 points) battled the North Carolina Courage (2-0-2, 8 points) for 90 minutes, and the North Carolina weather for another 90, to a scoreless draw, earning Sky Blue a valuable point on the road Saturday night.
With the result, Sky Blue remains in eighth place in NWSL standings, while the Courage drop to second play, one point behind the Utah Royals FC.
With the U.S. internationals already having reported to the team’s pre-World Cup training camp, Imani Dorsey eagerly took over the mantle for Carli Lloyd, leading Sky Blue in shots (5) and shots on goal (2).
Dorsey’s first chance of the night occurred in the third minute of the match when she made a run down the far side of the field before cutting inside, firing off a shot with two defenders watching nearby. Dorsey’s shot was well-struck and on target, but Courage keeper Steph Labbe got a hand up in time to block the reigning Rookie of the Year’s shot and keep Sky Blue from striking early.
She had a second solid look on goal in the 18th minute after a Sky Blue turnover resulted in a through ball for Dorsey that she received just outside the Courage 18. Defender Kaleigh Kurtz, marking Dorsey heavily, got a foot on the ball, but Dorsey was able to recover possession and turned, firing off a shot that deflected off of center back Abby Erceg. Jen Hoy, playing up top for Sky Blue, was standing unmarked in the box on the play.
Savannah McCaskill, who entered in the second half less than a minute before a 90-minute weather delay, came into the match eager to strike. In the 65th minute, defender Caprice Dydasco played in a coss that was headed by Sarah Killion, ending with McCaskill side volleying it towards the lower right corner, forcing Labbe to make a diving save.
Although many fans expected North Carolina to not feel the absence of their U.S. internationals—Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Jess McDonald, and Sam Mewis—as much as Sky Blue might miss Lloyd, the Courage noticeably struggled, especially in finishing.
The Courage outshot Sky Blue 28-8, but only put three of those on frame, the same number as Sky Blue. Debinha led North Carolina with eight shots (none on goal) and Lynn Williams was close behind with six shots (one on goal).
While Williams’ one shot on frame was stopped by Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, both Williams and Debinha were also denied by Sheridan’s left post in the opening half.
Williams was denied by the woodwork in the 20th minute, when teammate Kristen Hamilton turned and took off on a blazing central run before playing a perfectly-weighted through ball to Williams, whose low shot deflected off the near post. A brief scramble in the box ensued with Ireland-international Denise O’Sullivan attempting to send in the rebound, but she was unable to get off a clean shot because of the traffic directly in front of her.
Less than 15 minutes later, Williams drove the ball up the near flank before sending in a low cross that was deflected by a sliding Hamilton, who could have scored if she had timed the slide right. The deflection landed at Debinha’s foot, but she one-timed the ball off the near post. It was the second time the left post had denied the Courage in the opening half.
However, the biggest play of the night came in the 90th minute when right back Merritt Mathias, who was in contention for the U.S.’s World Cup squad following recent call-ups to national team camp, came up big for the Courage defense.
With the clock ticking down, McCaskill charged at the Courage backline before passing to Dorsey, who collected and fired a low shot at the far post. Labbe was out of position on the play and Dorsey’s shot looked to be on an open goal, but Mathias ran in at the right moment to make a stunning goal-line save and prevent Sky Blue from leaving with three points.
“I’m really proud of our effort,” Dorsey said after the match. “I think we are building each week and we are learning that we can weather the storms and also take it to teams.
“I think we can diversify out attack a little bit more, but the chances we are getting on goal are quality and we are really creating opportunities for ourselves.”
Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach, concurred, adding, “I wish we didn’t have the [weather delay], but I think we came out the second half organized and had a few opportunities to get a result as well.”
Sky Blue returns home to Yurcak Field on Saturday, May 11 when they host the Washington Spirit. Kickoff for that match is 3 p.m. ET.