Kerr, Rodriguez Lead Sky Blue to Win in Portland

sky blue win

By TOM SLATER

Sky Blue logoIt may be too early to tell how the season will play out, but Sky Blue is likely to look back on Saturday night’s 3-1 win at the Portland Thorns as a turning point. The game was easily the best Sky Blue has played in the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League season.

It was a case of Raquel Rodriguez scoring early and Sam Kerr scoring late. In between Sky Blue, playing with a makeshift defense, had the better of Portland before 16,736 at Providence Park. The loss snapped the Thorns’ 17-game home unbeaten streak.

“We are delighted with the result and exceptionally proud of every single player within this roster,” Sky Blue Coach Christy Holly said. “Everybody came together and pushed one another to fight it out to the very end. We know that there are better performances in us, but this is a fantastic stepping stone towards the huge goals that we have for ourselves.”

Sky Blue led literally from the start. The victory lifted Sky Blue (5-4-1, 16 points) past Portland (4-2-3, 15) into second place in the standings. Sky Blue has a chance to move up even more when they visit second-place Chicago (5-2-2, 17) on Sunday night.

Rodriguez scored only 25 seconds into the game, a team record for fastest goal, which also tied the league record. Kerr added two goals in the second half to extend the lead to 3-0.

Rodriguez, who has scored two late game-winners for Sky Blue this season, flipped the script when she gave her team the lead from the opening kick. Kerr found herself with room down the right flank and went to the end line before sending a serve toward goal. The ball was headed back out to Kerr who found a wide-open Rodriguez just inside the penalty box. The Penn State grad made no mistake slotting her shot inside the far post.

Portland’s b nearly tied the game a few minutes later when she found herself between central defenders, Christie Pearce and Mandy Freeman. Sinclair slid between the two but Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan came out quickly and forced the shot wide.

Sky Blue midfielder Sarah Killion had a chance to double the lead in the 32nd minute when Leah Galton was dragged down in the penalty area. Killion pulled the penalty hard to the right and missed the goal entirely. It was the second game in a row against Portland that the usually reliable Killion missed a penalty.

Sky Blue extended its lead to 2-0 on a brilliant display by Kerr in the 70th minute. On the scoring play, the United States international Kelley O’Hara, filling in at the back, cleared a ball that found the head of Maya Hayes at midfield. Hayes played the ball forward to Kerr, who turned on the jets and raced into a 1 v 1 situation with Portland goalkeeper Amanda Franch. Kerr dribbling around her, depositing the ball into an empty net.

In the 88th minute, Sky Blue stretched its lead to three goals as Madison Tiernan sent a ball toward her final third, causing Franch to come aggressively off her line. Kerr again beat Franch, flicking the ball past her before calmly slicing it into the open net.

Sky Blue was 20 seconds away from a shutout before a foul on Sinclair in the penalty area ruined that. Sheridan, Canada’s international goalkeeper, made a diving stop of Sinclair’s penalty kick but the rebound went right back to the striker who connected for the late goal.