By: Shannon Duffy
Sky Blue FC played Utah Royals FC to a tight 0-1 loss Saturday morning in its second preliminary round match in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. The match was presented by Hackensack Meridian Health.
Sky Blue started the game on the front foot, holding the majority of the possession early. However, Utah quickly grew into the match and began to create a few opportunities on the other end. Although the Royals’ attackers were pushing for a goal, Sky Blue’s collective defense held them at bay. The team tried to hit Utah on the counterattack but was unable to create anything on goal.
Utah broke through in the 41st minute when Vero Boquete threaded the ball through the Sky Blue defense, putting forward Amy Rodriguez in on goal. Rodriguez then slotted the ball into the right side netting from the corner of the six, giving her team the 1-0 lead to end the first half.
Coming out of halftime, the Sky Blue attack was immediately off to a better start, with Midge Purce darting forward and winning her team a free-kick just outside of the 18 yard box. Domi Richardson then stepped up to take the kick, which ultimately went over the bar. Sky Blue then continued to put pressure on the Utah defense through Ifeoma Onumonu’s penetrating runs forward.
On the other side of the ball, the Sky Blue defense stayed tight to keep Utah off the scoresheet in the second half. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was active off her line, intercepting crosses and shutting down attackers’ runs towards goal. With time winding down in the game, Nahomi Kawasumi and Purce both darted forward to put crosses into the box, but Utah’s defense cleared the passes away from danger. Despite the late push by Sky Blue, the game ultimately ended 1-0 in favor of Utah.
The game served as the first NWSL appearance and start for Sky Blue defender Kaleigh Riehl, whose three clearances and four interceptions helped shut down the Utah attack. Midfielder Nicole Baxter also made her NWSL debut when she entered the match in the 85th minute. Additionally, Sky Blue rookie forward Evelyne Viens earned her first professional start in this match.
Sheridan earned the Verizon Save of the Match award on Saturday for her stop in the 22nd minute off a shot to her near post. This is Sheridan’s second time receiving the honor after earning it in the first preliminary round match as well. Meanwhile, Sarah Woldmoe was named Sky Blue’s Saker ShopRite Woman of the Match for her strong performance in the midfield. Woldmoe led the team in successful passes, contributing to Sky Blue’s slight advantage in possession.
Sky Blue now sits in a three-way tie for sixth place in the NWSL Challenge Cup standings. The team will next face the Houston Dash this Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET. Provident Bank will be the presenting sponsor on Sky Blue digital channels.
Match: Utah Royals FC vs. Sky Blue FC
Date: July 4, 2020
Venue: Zions Bank Stadium
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET
Sky Blue FC
1-Kailen Sheridan; 12-Gina Lewandowski, 2-Kaleigh Riehl (77’ Estelle Johnson), 23-Margaret Purce, 15-Sabrina Flores (73’ Erica Skroski); 17-Domi Richardson (85’ Nicole Baxter), 16-Sarah Woldmoe (c), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi; 19-Elizabeth Eddy, 4-Paige Monaghan (46’ Jennifer Cudjoe), 20-Evelyne Viens (46’ Ifeoma Onumonu)
Unused Substitutes: 18-Cassidy Benintente, 28-Imani Dorsey, 13-Dijana Haracic, 22-Mandy Freeman, 14-Kenie Wright, 35-Megan Hinz, 21-Amanda McGlynn, 26-Chantelle Swaby, 7-McCall Zerboni
Utah Royals FC
1-Abby Smith; 2-Rachel Corsie, 19-Michelle Maemone (66’ Mallory Weber), 7-Elizabeth Ball; 10-Diana Matheson (57’ JÓNSDÓTTIR), 42-Raisa Strom-Okimoto (46’ Katie Bowen), 9-Lo’eau LaBonta, 21-Veronica Boquete, 29-Kate Del Fava; 25-Brittany Ratcliffe (66’ Tziarra King), 8-Amy Rodriguez (c) (85’ Arielle Ship)
Unused substitutes: 61-Melissa Lowder, 12-Taylor Lytle, 22-Madeline Nolf, 13-Chestley Strother, 18-Nicole Barnhart, 24-Taylor Leach, 38-Aminata Diallo, 30-Marissa Sheva, 33-Holly Daugirda, 14-Gaby Vincent
STATS SUMMARY (Sky Blue FC/Utah RoyalsFC)
Shots on target: 0/4
Blocked shots: 1/4
Sky Blue FC: Midge Purce 8’: Yellow Card
Sky Blue FC: Jennifer Cudjoe 67’: Yellow Card
Utah Royals FC: Arielle Ship 90+4’: Yellow Card