Sky Blue Hosts Portland in NWSL

killion spirit preview july 23

By TOM SLATER

sky blue logoEverything may be starting to fall into place for Sky Blue at the beginning as May turns to June.

Sky Blue (4-3-1, 13 points) has been one of the hottest teams in May, especially at home where they have won all three games played at Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University.

Sky Blue hopes to keep that streak going when they host the Portland Thorns (3-1-3, 12 points) on Saturday night. Portland is tied with Seattle (3-1-3, 12) for fourth place in the National Women’s Soccer League, a point behind Sky Blue with the league’s international break coming up after this weekend’s games.

It has been the play of Sam Kerr, the Australian international, that has sparked Sky Blue. She was named the NWSL Player of the Month after scoring two goals and adding two assists as Sky Blue won three games in May.

“Sam’s been phenomenal,” Coach Christy Holly said. “She has so much raw enthusiasm for the game. She plays it becomes she loves it. But she was putting so much pressure on herself, especially after the first two games. So we had a talk and told her to have some fun. This isn’t a game of chess, where you sit for hours and hours. Go out and enjoy yourself. Do the things that come natural to you.”

Midfielder Sarah Killion, in her third year, leads the league with five goals — four on penalty kicks. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, a Canadian international, has been solid in her rookie year and made a club-record 11 saves in a losing effort to North Carolina.

Kerr, Sheridan and Killion were all named to the NWSL Team of the Month.

Sky Blue closed out May with a 2-1 win over visiting Orlando. Portland is unbeaten five games (2-0-3), but has yet to win an away match. The Thorns are coming in off a 2-0 win over Boston last week with Amandine Henry scoring her first NWSL goal.

The Thorns have a high-powered lineup with Emily Sonnett and Meghan Klingenberg in the backline; with Allie long, Lindsay Horan and Henry manning the midfield; and Nadia Nadim and Hayley Raso up front.

“They bring a lot of challenges with some much experience on that team,” Holly said. ‘They know how to problem solve under pressure. We have to be smart and resilant and have to trust our own ability. I don’t think we’ve peaked yet. There’s a lot of growth left with this team.”

Notes

The U.S. international Kelley O’Hara will miss Saturday’s game with a minor injury. O’Hara is one of 21 players picked to play for the United States in a pair of friendlies in Scandinanvia (Sweden and Norway) next week. … Kailen Sheridan is one of three goalkeepers to be called to the Canadian team for two friendlies against Costa Rica. She is joined by Stephanie Labbe of Washington and Aubrey D’Angelo of North Carolina. … Erica Skroski has been called to the  U-23 national team and will travel to Sweden for the 2017 Women’s U-23 Open Nordic Tournament for games against Norway (June 6 in Karlstad), England (June 9 in Mallbacken) and Sweden (June 12 in Mallbacken) during the international break.