Sky Blue FC playing the Pride – with just pride on the line

sky blue preview orlando

by TOM SLATER

For the first time all year, there will be nothing on the line when Sky Blue FC takes the field Saturday against the Orlando Pride.

Well, except pride.

The two teams met for the first time in history Wednesday at Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field and played to a 1-1 draw. That result, combined with the Western New York Flash’s 2-2 draw with Boston, eliminated Sky Blue FC from the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs for the third straight year. Orlando was eliminated a week ago after a 4-2 loss to Houston.

Sky Blue (6-7-5, 23 points) will also take the field with a four-game winless streak that includes three losses and a draw. Two of those losses have come on the road. With wins in their final two matches, Sky Blue will finish at .500.

The New Jersey side will have to do with a few of its regular starters unavailable. Taylor Lytle and Leah Galton, who have started most of the year in the midfield, will not play. Lytle has a left knee sprain while Galton is sitting out as per concussion protocol. Kelley O’Hara, who has missed the last two matches, is listed as questionable.

Sky Blue will have Sam Kerr. Kerr has provided the scoring over the last three matches and now has five goals on the year to lead the team. Kerr’s goal in the 80th minute forged the draw with Orlando. Kerr volleyed a pass from the center circle to spring Maya Hayes in on goal one-on-one with Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Harris was able to make a foot save on Hayes’ shot but the ball deflected to Kerr, who slotted it home for the equalizer.

Hayes is predicted to team with veteran striker Tasha Kai up front. Nikki Stanton is expected to start in the midfield with Raquel Rodriguez, Sarah Killion and Kerr. The backline of Erica Skroski, Christie Rampone, Erin Simon and Kristin Grubka remains the same in front of Caroline Casey, who will start her second straight match

Orlando (6-11-1, 19 points) is led by Alex Morgan, who has four goals including the Pride’s score Wednesday. Jasmyne Spencer has three goals. The team’s leading scorer, Becky Edwards, has five goals but is sitting out with a concussion. Newly acquired Australian star Lisa De vanna will likely come off the bench.

The match will be played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. First kick is 7:30 p.m.