Sky Blue FC (4-11-4, 16 points) defeated the host Houston Dash, 2-1, thanks to a first-half brace from Carli Lloyd on Saturday night. The three points earned on the road in Houston were enough to see Sky Blue overtake the Orlando Pride for eighth place in the league standings, sending the Pride into last place.
Kealia Ohai scored the lone Dash goal of the night, a goal deep into second-half stoppage time which proved too little, too late for the home side to salvage any points.
Lloyd told media after the game that the adjustments Sky Blue made on and off the field, as well as more continuity in the game day roster, has helped lead the team to their recent success.
“We’ve obviously had some changes this season. It’s been tough,” Lloyd said. “But I think now we’ve got some good people in place, we’ve had a consistent lineup that we’ve gone with, we’re organized, and I think it’s just the mindset that has changed.
“We’ve got nothing to lose when we go out in these games and I’m proud of the group because we’ve literally grinded away for every point that we’ve gotten these past few weeks.”
With her two goals in the first half, Lloyd was a major factor in Sky Blue getting the win against her former team. Her first goal came in the 26th minute, after a foul in Sky Blue’s final third.
Sarah Killion quickly restarted play with a pass down the right side for Jen Hoy, whose first touch allowed her to round Dash defender Allysha Chapman and send a cross in front of goal for Lloyd, who ran into the box unmarked. Lloyd easily tapped the ball past Houston keeper Jane Campbell for the opening goal of the night.
Lloyd then put away what was ultimately the game-winning goal in the 41st minute, this time off a beautiful pass from teammate Raquel Rodriguez. Lloyd was once again unmarked, this time in space, and she made a run towards goal. Just as defender Ally Prisock caught up to Lloyd, the Sky Blue midfielder took her shot, placing it where Campbell once again could not make the save.
“She is still one of the best players in the world, and you saw that and two terrific goals,” Dash Head Coach James Clarkson said of Lloyd’s game after the match. “But I think when we look back on it, we were fully aware of it, and that’s [on] us. We’ve let ourselves down because she scored two goals.”
The match remained at 2-0 in favor of the visitors until deep into stoppage time, when Dash captain Kealia Ohai pulled on back for the home side. Center back Amber Brooks sent a long ball over the top to second-half substitute Ariana Calderón, who headed the ball to Ohai. Ohai then used her skill on the ball to dribble through a sea of navy jerseys and get into enough space to blast a shot past Sheridan to deny the Sky Blue keeper the clean sheet.
The game was a physical one, and Sky Blue’s defense saw a number of yellow cards throughout the night as their physicality and gamesmanship was used to slow down the Dash. Defenders Caprice Dydasco, Erica Skroski, and Gina Lewandowski were all booked for their physical play, while goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was booked for time wasting in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
Skroski was shown yellow in the 34th minute after tugging Dash forward Rachel Daly down with a two-hand tug on her jersey. The egregious foul was retaliation after an on-the-ball tussle between Skroski and Daly, and Skroski was rightfully booked before being subbed out of the match at the half, replaced by rookie Julie James Doyle, usually an attacker for Sky Blue.
With the exception of the yellow card and one goal conceded, it was another stellar night in goal for Kailen Sheridan. Although the Dash outshot Sky Blue 18-13, putting seven shots on target, Sheridan came up with six big saves to prevent the Dash from overcoming the first-half deficit.
Sheridan had a little assistance from the crossbar, which denied the Dash from scoring once in each half to keep the visitors on top.
Sky Blue next returns home, where they will take on the reigning NWSL Champions, the North Carolina Courage, on Saturday, Sept. 7. That match will kick off at 3 p.m. ET and be streamed live on Yahoo! Sports.
Full #HOUvNJ highlights are below.