Second-Half Goals Sink Sky Blue

kerr bike

By TOM SLATER

sky blue logoPISCATAWAY, N.J. — Leading at home against Orlando — a team it had never lost to — Sky Blue’s two defensive errors led to goals in the final 13 minutes of the Pride’s 3-2 victory in a midweek game in the National Women’s Soccer League at Yurcak Field on Wednesday night.

The loss was not only the second in a row for Sky Blue (5-6-1, 16 points), it was also the second-straight game the club lost after taking a lead into the second half. Sky Blue fell into fifth place when both Portland (5-3-3, 18) and Seattle (4-2-5, 17) notched midweek wins. Sky Blue has a quick turnaround and plays at first-place North Carolina (8-3-0, 24) on Saturday (4 p.m. Eastern, Liftetime Game of the Week).

In a game marked with back-and-forth chances for both sides, Sky Blue held a 2-1 lead with about 15 minutes left in the game.

First an errant clear by rookie defender Mandy Freeman went right to the Brazilian star Marta, who left-footed a 12-yard shot past Kailen Sheridan to get Orlando even.

Nine minutes later, Orlando had the game-winner when Rachel Hill scored her first NWSL goal, outleaping Kayla Mills and nodding the ball past Sheridan. The goal was set up by a near-perfect service from Australia international Steph Catley.

“It is unacceptable for us to continue performing at such an inconsistent level,” Sky Blue Coach Christy Holly said. “We know that we can do better. The positive that we will take away from this is knowing everything that went wrong in our performance is something we can control. We can rectify that, and we take accountability for what happened here tonight.”

With the match tied at 1, Sam Kerr gave Sky Blue the lead with a goal-of-the-year candidate just minutes into the second half. After Orlando missed a golden opportunity in the opening minute of the half, Daphne Corboz found Maya Hayes over the top of the Pride defense. Hayes, who worked hard all night, took on Pride defender Ali Krieger down the left side, using her speed and muscle to get near the end line. Hayes served a ball about six yards out in front of Orlando goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and Kerr’s bicycle kick sailed over Bledsoe’s head.

Just before halftime, Catley fouled Kerr and gave Sky Blue its league-record eighth penalty kick of the season and second of the game. Kelley O’Hara blasted the spot kick into the upper left corner to get Sky Blue even.

Twenty minutes earlier, Sarah Killion missed her third straight penalty kick after Kreiger fouled Corboz just inside the box. Killion struck the ball to the left of Bledsoe but the former Sky Blue backup made the save. Bledsoe kept Orlando in the match with two key saves on Kerr in the opening half, including a reaction save from a long-range blast.

Orlando scored first when Chioma Obobgagu converted a pass from former Rutgers star Kristen Edmonds in the 11th minute.