Sky Blue FC dropped the first round finale of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, falling 2-0 to the undefeated North Carolina Courage in Monday night’s contest at Zions Bank Stadium.
The heavily favored Courage took control of the game early, as midfielder Samantha Mewis cashed in on a chaotic scramble after Sky Blue failed to clear a corner, firing home a bullet of a half volley in the seventh minute. Crystal Dunn then put the reigning league champions ahead for good at the 56’ mark, cooly gliding past Gina Lewandowski before finding the back of the net from roughly ten yards out.
The two goal defeat dropped Sky Blue down to 7th in the first round standings, even with three other teams on four points, but losing out on tiebreakers. The Harrison squad will square off with the Washington Spirit in the quarterfinals, a tough draw against one of the league’s strongest rosters. Midfielder and USWNT star Rose Lavelle is a sure bet to give Sky Blue’s defense all it can handle, pulling the strings behind striker Ashley Hatch.
Though comprehensive, last night’s loss was one Sky Blue can build upon, and even perhaps be proud of. The team looked unafraid and composed in the face of the best the league has to offer. Despite all the talent the Courage displayed (and the lineup they put out pulled no punches), Sky Blue was not smothered, creating good chances and sustaining attacks. Especially considering the squad’s stalwart fullback Midge Purce was benched, and later declared unavailable as a substitute, the team’s performance was just as good as the other three teams that have matched up against the Courage this tournament. Most importantly, Sky Blue’s new identity as a possession-oriented team was not compromised, the mark of a team that will be ready to stay strong against any team in the coming rounds of this tournament.
With the first round of the tournament now in the books, the squad and head coach Freya Coombe will now set their sites on the knockout games that will determine how long Sky Blue will remain in Utah. A loss against the Spirit will ensure the team will be on the next flight back to Newark International Airport. But a win will have the team well on their way to fighting for a title.
Three straight victories, and captain Sarah Woldmoe will be lifting the trophy at Rio Tinto Stadium - uch is the beautiful nature of knockout soccer. July 18th will be a telling game for SBFC; if they can get a result against Washington, there is no reason to not believe that Sky Blue can take down any other team in the league.
The stage is set.— NWSL (@NWSL) July 14, 2020
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