NWSL Update: Sky Blue and NC Courage Tie
The National Women’s Soccer League season is drawing to a close and in less than three weeks this year will be over with a champion crowned — and as these last few games are played and spots for the playoffs are declared, the unexpected sometimes happens — as it did today when Sky Blue handed NC Courage its first tie of the season. It was an exciting match and proves that you never know what may happen when teams take to the pitch.
NC Courage Sees First Draw of the Season at Sky Blue FC — Sky Blue’s Raquel Rodriguez Scores 75th Minute Equalizer in 1-1 Home Finale at Yurcak Field
The North Carolina Courage were held to a 1-1 draw with Sky Blue FC on Sunday night at Yurcak Field.
The Courage remains in first place with 46 points and inches closer to clinching the 2017 NWSL Shield and finding out its opponent for its home NWSL semi-final playoff game on Sunday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 p.m. at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
When 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, no one expected the team to make history — holding their opponents to a final score of 1-1.
After going ahead in the 27th minute via a goal from rookie Ashley Hatch, Sky Blue FC equalized late in the second half to hold the Courage to a draw for the first time this season.
NC Courage’s Kristen Hamilton picked the ball from the air and headed it onto the feet of a racing Hatch. After a couple of touches, Hatch struck a left-footed shot that found the back of the net. This was Hatch sixth goal of the season.
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.
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.
Sky Blue fought for the draw till the end — with late heroics from Casey in the 86th minute. Williams fired a point-blank shot and a well prepared Casey made another significant save and 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.
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
Courage: 27th minute – NC Ashley Hatch (Kristen Hamilton)
Sky Blue: 75th minute – Raquel Rodriguez (Sam Kerr)
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