Road Weary Sky Blue Hopes to Rebound

Midfielder Nikki Stanton

By TOM SLATER

sky blue logoThe National Women’s Soccer League schedule makers have not been kind to Sky Blue the first six weeks of the season.

Five of its first seven games have been on the road, including a three-game stretch over eight days, which included a midweek match at North Carolina with first place on the line. Throw in a 15-hour delay getting home to New Jersey from Houston.

Yet, Sky Blue (3-3-1, 10 points) will consider the first two months of the season a success if it can escape May with a win over visiting Orlando (1-2-3, 6) on Saturday night (7 p.m., Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.).

Orlando presents a mixed bag. After going winless in their first three games, the Pride is unbeaten in their last three. The lineup features one of the most entertaining players in the world, Marta of Brazil. But the Pride lost United States international goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris with a quadriceps injury and she is expected to miss eight weeks. Either of two former Sky Blue goalkeepers — Aubrey Bledsoe and Caroline Stanley — will play for the Pride

Sky Blue is coming off a 2-0 loss at first-place North Carolina on Wednesday. The Courage applied high pressure from the opening whistle and scored twice in the first half.

Sky Blue Coach Christy Holly rested several of his regulars to start the game, including Sam Kerr and Raquel Rodriguez, both of whom entered the game in the second half.

There were a few highlights: Nikki Stanton, a starter in the last three games, was active all night and probably played her best game of the season; and the rookie goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan had a fantastic game, setting a club record with 11 saves.