By: Shannon Duffy
Sky Blue FC opened up their preliminary round of the NWSL Challenge Cup Tuesday night against the OL Reign, playing the team to a 0-0 draw. The match at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah was presented by Hackensack Meridian Health.
Sky Blue and the Reign both split their time with the ball in the first half, having 48% and 52% of the possession respectively. In their spells of possession, Sky Blue was able to connect through the midfield with McCall Zerboni and Ifeoma Onumonu forcing several chances on goal. The team’s best chance of the match came just before halftime when Nahomi Kawasumi broke through off a cross from Sabrina Flores, but her shot was ultimately blocked by the sliding Reign defender.
The methodical possession by both teams continued in the second half. Sky Blue had success playing through the middle third but was unable to connect in front of goal. The team broke through in the 70th minute when Kawasumi found an open Elizabeth Eddy at the penalty spot, but her shot was blocked by Casey Murphy. When the Reign were on the attack, Sky Blue stayed strong defensively, with a few key clearances and blocks from the players.
Kailen Sheridan made a couple of huge saves late in the match to keep the Reign off the scoresheet. In the 80th minute, Reign forward Darian Jenkins launched a shot from the top of the box that was deflected towards the top right corner of the goal. Sheridan dove to her left side and was able to grab the ball out of the air to keep it from reaching the back of the net.
Reign forward Jasmine Spencer broke through 1v1 against Sheridan in the 85th minute, who dove to her right to come up with the point-blank save, keeping her team in the match. Despite Sky Blue’s efforts to force a goal in the final minutes with rookie Evelyne Viens making several key runs, the score remained 0-0.
In Tuesday’s matchup, both Sheridan and Murphy earn the first shutouts of the tournament. Among her four huge saves in the match, Sheridan’s stop in the 85th minute was named the Secret Deodorant No Sweat Play of the Match, as well as the Verizon Save of the Match. Additionally, Zerboni’s stellar performance in the midfield earned her Sky Blue’s Saker ShopRite Electric Woman of the Match award.
The match served as the first appearance in a Sky Blue jersey for several players, including Midge Purce, McCall Zerboni, Ifeoma Onumonu, Evelyne Viens, and Jennifer Cudjoe. Viens and Cudjoe both also made their professional debut in the match. Additionally, Freya Coombe made her debut as the squad’s full Head Coach after serving as the interim for the final five matches of 2019.
“I think we had some promising moments,” said Purce. “A lot of the things we’ve been working on in practice showed in the game and I think we’re going to do well as the tournament advances.”
Sky Blue will now shift their focus to their second preliminary round matchup on Saturday, July 4 against Utah Royals FC at 12:30 p.m. ET. Fans in the U.S. and Canada can watch the match on CBS All Access, while international fans can tune in on Twitch.
Match: OL Reign vs. Sky Blue FC
Date: June 30, 2019
Venue: Zion’s Bank Stadium
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET
Weather: 67 degrees and sunny, sunset at 9:03 p.m.
1-Kailen Sheridan; 24-Estelle Johnson, 12-Gina Lewandowski, 23-Midge Purce (77’ 8-Erica Skroski), 15-Sabrina Flores; 7-McCall Zerboni, 16-Sarah Woldmoe (c), 17-Domi Richardson (60’ 6-Jennifer Cudjoe); 4-Paige Monaghan (‘45 19-Elizabeth Eddy), 25-Ifeoma Onumonu (77’ 20-Evelyne Viens), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi
Unused Substitutes: 13-Didi Haracic, 18-Cassidy Benintente, 14-Kenie Wright, 21-Amanda McGlynn, 2-Kaleigh Riehl, 5-Nicole Baxter, 26-Chantelle Swaby, 35-Megan Hinz, 22-Mandy Freeman
26-Casey Murphy; 14-Stephanie Cox (75’ 21-Yuka Momiki), 19-Kristen McNabb, 4-Alana Cook, Lauren Barnes (c); 28-Shirley Cruz (75’ 31-Rosie White), 6-Allie Long, 5-Rebecca Quinn; 24-Bethany Balcer (57’ 23-Taylor Smith), 11-Darian Jenkins, 9-Jodie Taylor (75’ 22-Jasmyne Spencer)
Unused Substitutes: 1-Michelle Betos, 25-Kelcie Hedge, 18-Mariah Lee, 27-Carly Nelson, 2-Amber Brooks, 13-Celia Jimenez, 99-Madison Hammond, 12-Morgan Andrews, 17-Dani Weatherholt, 29-Adrienne Jordan, 30-Machaela George
STATS SUMMARY (Sky Blue/OL Reign)
Shots on target: 2/4
Blocked shots: 3/3
OL Reign: Alana Cook 59’: Yellow Card