Last night Sky Blue FC battled to a 0-0 draw with OL Reign (the newly-named Seattle franchise) at Zions Bank Stadium in their first game of the NWSL Challenge Cup.
Kailen Sheridan played the role of hero for the underdogs from Harrison, turning away Reign effort after Reign effort, including an incredible 1v1 stop against a charging Jasmyn Spencer in the 85’. Her performance in goal was crucial in ensuring the Tacoma outfit stayed off the scoreboard despite continued pressure.
Even though Reign controlled the stat sheet and possession battle for the majority of the game, Sky Blue was far from out of the match. The best chance of the 90’ fell to starting striker Nahomi Kawasumi, who had a point blank effort cleared by Lauren Barnes just before the halftime whistle blew.
Highly-touted new signing Midge Purce was immediately the subject of discussion, as the dynamic 24 year old winger/striker spent her time on the field at fullback. Purce by no means disappointed, showing her skill with multiple mazy runs and incisive deliveries, but more than a few spectators called into question whether such abilities could have been better used up front, bolstering a Sky Blue attack that had been having its greatest success on fast-paced counters.
McCall Zerboni, also making her debut for the club, provided a performance that was just as advertised. She provided an aggressive and steely presence in the midfield, continually diving into 50/50 challenges. Though Zerboni wasn’t the sharpest player on the pitch all game, on more than one occasion she showed flashes of why she could be an excellent midfield partner to the club’s equally hard-working captain, Sarah Woldmoe.
Overall, though unquestionably a bit boring and slow, it’s hard to define this game as anything unexpected. In a matchup between two teams that hadn’t played in months, each with a new coach, a certain degree of rust and uncertainty was bound to be shown. Both teams seemed to do a fair bit of hesitant prodding, patiently searching for an opportunity to exploit an opposition mistake and grab a quick goal.
Hopefully this match will prove to be a much needed tune-up for Sky Blue, helping coach Freya Coombe and the rest of the squad discover the best way to kick into top gear as two crucial games against Utah Royals and the Houston Dash loom ahead.