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Sky Blue win streak ends with 1-0 road loss to Orlando

Sky Blue was unable to equalize after a first-half Pride goal. 

Kailen Sheridan made five saves and conceded one goal in Sky Blue’s 0-1 road loss to Orlando.
Tom Salus

Sky Blue FC (2-8-2, 8 points) saw their short-lived win streak come to an end on the road in Orlando when they lost to the home Pride (3-9-2, 11 points), 1-0, on Saturday night. The loss is the first since the firing of previous head coach, Denise Reddy.

Pride rookie Marissa Viggiano scored her first professional goal in the 23rd minute, a rocket of a strike from the top of the box that Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan got a hand to but was ultimately unable to stop. Viggiano’s goal was the lone one on the night, making her first professional goal also her first professional game winner to earn the home side three points.

Those three points were enough to keep the Pride above Sky Blue in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) standings. The Pride are now in eighth place on the NWSL table, while Sky Blue falls back to last place at ninth.

In the two teams’ previous clash, a 2-1 home loss for Sky Blue on June 22, Viggiano failed to get on the scoresheet, but it was her cross in the box that deflected off of Sky Blue defender Gina Lewandowski into the net for the game-losing own goal.

Although the Pride were nearly back to full strength for Saturday’s clash, they were without the services of United States women’s national team (USWNT) star forward, Alex Morgan, who was left out of the game day 18 after being listed questionable on this weekend’s injury report. Morgan sustained a right knee injury during the World Cup.

Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger both returned to Orlando’s starting lineup for the match, and Harris made two saves to earn the first Pride shutout of the season.

On the opposite side of the field, Sky Blue was without the services of USWNT midfielder Carli Lloyd, who was listed as away with an excused absence on this weekend’s injury report before the team told Once A Metro that “Carli has not returned from international duty.”

Sky Blue signed National Team Replacement player Nicole Baxter ahead of Saturday’s match, but Baxter did not see the field.

Jen Hoy, whose second-half heroics in Sky Blue’s last two matches have appropriately earned her super-sub status, entered the match earlier than usual, subbing on for defender Estelle Johnson at the start of the second half. Hoy went up top while Paige Monaghan, who started at forward, dropped back to right back while Lewandowski slid over to center back.

Hoy was unable to bring as much of an impact off of the bench, though, as Orlando’s legs weren’t as tired when she entered the match. Hoy only registered one shot all match and it was off target.

Overall, it was a sluggish offensive effort by the New Jersey side. Orlando outshot the visitors, 22-10, with only Monaghan and midfielder Julie (née James) Doyle, who led the team in shots with three, putting shots on target.

Since her return in goal following her stint in France with the Canadian national team, Sheridan once again impressed, tallying five saves on the night. Sheridan had two big saves in the second half, the first to deny a close-range attempt from defender Toni Pressley shortly after the break.

The second came at the hour mark, when Brazilian-international attacker Marta sprang forward Rachel Hill with a bouncing through ball that couldn’t be stopped by the sliding Lewandowski’s outstretched foot. Hill gained possession, reached the top of the box and fired off a shot to Sheridan’s right, but the keeper was able to dive and knock the shot away with her mitt to keep the Pride at a one-goal lead.

Despite missing five matches while with Canada for the World Cup, Sheridan is still tied in fourth place for saves with 32. That total also gives her the highest number of saves of any NWSL keeper who was also at the World Cup.

Sky Blue next returns home for a midweek match against the Washington Spirit on Wednesday, July 24 at 7 p.m. That match will be the club’s World Cup Return Night honoring all of the players who competed in this year’s tournament, including the 2019 World Cup-winning USWNT.

Full highlights from ORLvNJ are below.