Photo by Robyn McNeil, ISI Photos.
Raquel Rodriguez Scores 75th Minute Equalizer in 1-1 Home Finale at Yurcak Field
Piscataway, N.J. (Sept. 24, 2017) – Sky Blue FC (9-11-3, 30 points) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Sunday, playing the first-place North Carolina Courage (15-6-1, 46 points) to its first draw of the season, 1-1. Making her first start of the 2017 campaign, Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Caroline Casey registered six saves on the night, earning Saker ShopRite Stores Woman of the Match honors.
Casey made some key stops in the early-going, including a spectacular save in the 22nd minute. On that sequence, Lynn Williams carried possession down the left flank before cutting inside and delivering a feed to Denise O’Sullivan in the center of the box. As the ball arrived, O’Sullivan one-timed a hard shot on frame that forced Casey to extend into a diving save to punch it away.
In the 27th minute, North Carolina broke the deadlock. Following a goal kick from Casey, Kristen Hamilton picked the ball from the air and headed it onto the feet of a racing Ashley Hatch. After a couple of touches, Hatch struck a left-footed shot that found the back of the net, giving the visiting side a 1-0 advantage.
With that 1-0 score line remaining at the start of the second half, Sky Blue FC aggressively sought out the equalizer. In the 75th minute, they would find it.
On a free kick opportunity, Kelley O’Hara sent a ball into the box that was initially cleared by Sam Mewis. It then rolled to the feet of Domi Richardson, who quickly struck it back into the center of the area. North Carolina netminder Katelyn Rowland came off her line in pursuit of the delivery, but Sam Kerr got there first and chested it down for Raquel Rodriguez. After the Costa Rica international gained possession, she stuck out her right foot and poked it into the goal to put a 1-1 tally.
The count would remain level the rest of the way, but not without some late heroics from Casey in the 86th minute. After Williams acquired the ball on the left flank, she immediately began to run on goal into a 1v1 situation with Casey. As she approached the six-yard box, Williams fired a point-blank shot, but Casey was well-prepared and made another significant save. Following that stoppage, Sky Blue FC was able to preserve the 1-1 draw.
Next up for Sky Blue FC is its final match of the 2017 season, which will take place next Saturday on the road against the Boston Breakers.
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NWSL Match Report
Match: Sky Blue FC vs. North Carolina Courage
Date: September 24, 2017
Venue: Yurcak Field; Piscataway, New Jersey
Weather: 92 degrees, sunny
NJ: 0 | 1 – 1
NC: 1 | 0 – 1
27 NC Ashley Hatch (Kristen Hamilton)
75 NJ Raquel Rodriguez (Sam Kerr)
NJ: Casey, Skroski, Freeman, Richardson, O’Hara, Stanton, Lytle, Killion, Tiernan (Meehan-90+1), Kerr, Hayes (Rodriguez-46)
Subs not used: Sheridan, Benintente, Mills
Game Day Coach: David Hodgson
NC: Rowland, Hinkle, Erceg, Dahlkemper, Taylor, Hamilton, Zerboni, Mewis, O’Sullivan (Debinha-71), Williams, Hatch (Doniak-65)
Subs Not Used: D’Angelo, Holstad, Ochs, Speck, Witteman
Head Coach: Paul Riley
Stats Summary: NJ / NC
Shots: 8 / 24
Saves: 6 / 1
Corner Kicks: 2 / 13
Fouls: 7 / 5
Offside: 7 / 2
66 NJ Nikki Stanton
Referee: Lorant Varga
Assistant Referee 1: Gjovalin Bori
Assistant Referee 2: Jeremy Weed
Fourth Official: Henrik Karlsson
Saker ShopRite Stores Woman of the Match: Caroline Casey