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Sky Blue FC earns draw on historic afternoon

Sky Blue FC played its first-ever match at Red Bull Arena and set an all-time club attendance record.

Cloud 9, the official supporters group of Sky Blue FC, display their tifo ahead of the club’s historic match at Red Bull Arena.
Allison Lee

HARRISON, N.J. - Sky Blue FC (3-11-4, 13 points) earned a 1-1 draw against Reign FC (7-4-6, 27 points) on Sunday at Red Bull Arena, with first-half goals scored by Sky Blue’s Liz Eddy and Reign’s Jodie Taylor earning each team a point.

The draw took place in front of 9,415 fans, a new record for the club’s all-time single game attendance.

“This atmosphere is up there with the best,” midfielder Sarah Killion, who wore the captain’s armband on her 100th NWSL appearance, told the media after the match. “I mean, nine thousand of our screaming fans, cheering for us and not going silent when we shoot on frame or something like that, it makes all the difference for our momentum throughout the game, especially during the heat like that.”

“I know that the staff was working as hard as they could to make this happen, so it just brings a smile to my face. We almost got the win, too, at the end there. We’re fighting and we’re scrapping, and we’re just getting better and better every week.”

The match remained scoreless until the 36th minute, when Kenie Wright sent a bouncing ball up for Liz Eddy, who one-timed her shot from just inside the far corner of the penalty area, chipping Reign FC keeper Casey Murphy as she raced off her line. In the end, all she could do was watch as Eddy’s shot bounced into the corner of the net.

However, the Reign immediately equalized on the restart, with a team effort ending with a cross by Allie Long into the Reign’s attacking third to Reign FC forward Jodie Taylor, who was heavily marked by Erica Skroski. Despite Skroski’s defensive efforts, Taylor was able to fire a shot past Sky Blue’s goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, bringing the score back level just two minutes after Sky Blue took the lead.

The second half included a number of dangerous attempts on goal by the Reign, but each was thwarted by either a lack of finishing or Sheridan, who racked up five saves on the day in comparison to Murphy’s two for the Reign.

Carli Lloyd nearly had the second stoppage-time game-winning goal for Sky Blue in five days, but her shot was wide of the mark, and Sky Blue settled for a draw.

Sky Blue was honestly lucky to have scraped by with a point, as the home side was outplayed in almost every other area of the game. Reign FC took double the number of shots and shots on goal as Sky Blue (18-9 and 6-3, respectively), and enjoyed over 60 percent of possession.

And they did it without two of their most dangerous attacking players. Megan Rapinoe, who traveled for the match, was unavailable for selection as she continues to recover from a left Achilles injury sustained in the United States’ push for a second consecutive World Cup title.

Reign FC forward, and former Sky Blue FC member, Shea Groom exited the match in the 19th minute after a collision with Carli Lloyd resulted in Groom being stretchered off the field. It was confirmed during the game that Groom had suffered a broken rib in the collision.

As much as the pomp and circumstance around today’s game meant to the players, several of them are already shifting their focus to next weekend’s match in Houston.

“We just want to keep getting better each week, honestly,” defender Estelle Johnson said, who was honored for her 100th NWSL appearance in a post-game ceremony, said. “We just want to pick up as many points as we can. We don’t want to end at the bottom of the league again.”

Sky Blue next hits the road to take on the Houston Dash on Aug. 24. That game will kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Full #NJvSEA highlights are below.