Sky Blue Looking for First Win Against Chicago

celebrate

By TOM SLATER

sky blue logoMaybe the 12th time will be the charm for Sky Blue against the Chicago Red Stars.

After 11 meetings, Chicago is 5-0-6 record against Sky Blue in the National Women’s Soccer League, including a 3-0-2 record in New Jersey, where the teams meet again at Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., on Saturday night.

A win by Sky Blue (7-6-1, 22 points) would vault the team over the Red Stars (7-3-3, 24) and into second place. Sky Blue is coming off the biggest come-from-behind victory in league history, propelled by a natural hat trick by Sam Kerr that erased FC Kansas City’s 2-0 lead in the final 12 minutes of a dramatic 3-2 win last week.

Sky Blue became only the second team to rally from two goals down to win. It was the eighth time in league history a team has earned a victory when trailing at the 75-minute mark and the first time a team was able to overturn a two-goal deficit for the victory.

Sky Blue takes a two-game winning streak into the match while Chicago is on the last leg of a four-game road trip. The Red Stars are 1-1-1 on the trip and have two straight shutouts, including a scoreless draw with Boston last weekend.

The match will pit the No. 2 offense (22 goals) against Chicago’s top-ranked defense (11 goals against). Kerr, Raquel Rodriguez and Sarah Killion have combined for 17 goals to pace the Jersey offense.

Chicago boasts the top goalkeeper in United States international Alyssa Naeher, who has five shutouts on the year. Defenders Arin Gilliland, Kate Naugton, Casey Short and Samantha Johnson form a solid backline. Naeher was not required to make a save against Boston.

On Friday, Sky Blue activated Tasha Kai, who has been recovering from off-season operations on her left and right ankles. Kai will be on the active roster against Chicago. Last year, the Hawaii native made 17 starts and appeared in all 20 matches for Sky Blue, recording four goals and one assist The second-year defender Erin Simon was placed on the 45-day injury list to make room for Kai.

Simon started seven games for Sky Blue this season, but the New Jersey native will miss a minimum of 45 days after having an operation on her fractured left ankle sustained two weeks ago against the North Carolina Courage. Sky Blue will also be missing defender Mandy Freeman, who sustained a left-ankle sprain against FC Kansas City.

More Awards for Kerr

Sam Kerr was again named the NWSL Player of the Week, in an unanimous vote, for her dramatic heroics in the win over FC Kansas City.

It is the fourth time Kerr has won player of the week honors (the second this season) and the eighth time a Sky Blue player has won the award. She joins the former Washington Spirit forward Crystal Dunn (6), FC Kansas City forward Sydney Leroux (4) and Seattle Reign FC forward Nahomi Kawasumi (4) as the only players to win the award four or more times.

Kerr was also named the league’s player of the month in May and June, only the second player in league history to win the award in consecutive months.