Sky Blue avenge home loss to Portland Thorns with convincing win at Providence Park

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Sky Blue FC wasted no time in getting back into rhythm after a two-week break.

No more than 25 seconds had passed in its return to National Women’s Soccer League action when midfielder Raquel Rodriguez was running towards teammates with her arms spread wide, celebrating the opening goal against the Portland Thorns in a Saturday night matchup at Providence Park.

Tied for the fastest goal in league history, it was a big step in the right direction for the visitors, who entered the contest seeking revenge for a 2-0 loss to the same opponents in their final match before the international break, the only defeat the Jersey Girls had suffered at Yurcak Field this year.

The opening goal would propel the visitors to a 3-1 win over the Thorns.

Sky Blue would spend much of the match on its heels, defending a barrage of attacks from the Thorns that started immediately following the opener, but it never backed down. The Jersey Girls held on tooth-and-nail to their slim lead for the first hour, with goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan making save after save to keep the hosts at a distance.

Her teammates had a chance to relieve some pressure on the other end when they were given a penalty, but Sarah Killion was unable to bury her fifth penalty kick and sixth goal overall, hitting it just wide.

Weight was taken off the rookie’s shoulders when teammate Sam Kerr timed a midfield run to perfection to get clean through on goal, giving her plenty of time and space to round Thorns’ goalkeeper Adrianna Franch — the hero of the team’s last matchup in New Brunswick — and give Sky Blue a 2-0 lead.

The Australian would induce deja-vu to those at Providence Park nearly at the death, once again receiving the ball in the final third with space, again managing to round Franch and again slotting it into an empty net, pushing the scoreline to 3-0.

The hosts would get their consolation goal with just about the final kick of the match, but not without resistance. The Thorns would get their own crack from the penalty spot after a sloppy challenge from Kayla Mills in the penalty area.

Christine Sinclair would step up and hit it to her right where her shot would be stopped by a diving Sheridan. The goalkeeper stopped the initial attempt but failed to secure it, however, spilling it far enough to allow Sinclair to react and hit it into the top corner.

 

It would leave both parties with a frustrated look on their face — Sheridan for losing her clean sheet, Sinclair for her team suffering a loss despite many chances to reverse their fortune.

With the result, the Jersey Girls took all three points and the satisfaction of retribution back to the Garden State.

Sheridan continued to shine after her team doubled its lead, but she was the beneficiary of a controversial call. Seconds after Kerr’s goal, the Thorns managed to put a shot past Sheridan, the Canadian spilling a Lindsay Horan past the goal line. The play was called back for offside, though the Thorns midfielder looked to be onside by an inch on the replay.

It would be the final error committed by Sheridan on the night as she made another two saves in the final 15 minutes, including one against Horan a minute after the controversial offside decision.

With the win — its fourth in its last six matches — Sky Blue move ahead of the Thorns in the NWSL standings, albeit with a match in hand. After 10 matches, the Jersey Girls stand five points behind league leaders North Carolina Courage.

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Scoring Summary:

Sky Blue 1-0 — Raquel Rodriguez (1’)

Sky Blue 2-0 — Sam Kerr (52’)

Sky Blue 3-0 — Sam Kerr (77’)

Portland 3-1 — Christine Sinclair (90+4’)

Starting XI:

Sky Blue: Kailen Sheridan, Kelley O’Hara, Mandy Freeman, Christie Pierce, Kayla Mills, Leah Galton (Maya Hayes, 69’), Sarah Killion, Raquel Rodriguez, Taylor Lyttle (Nikki Stanton, 78’), Sam Kerr, McKenzie Meehan (Madison Tiernan, 61’).

Portland: Adrianna Franch, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges, Emily Sonnett, Celeste Boureille, Allie Long, Amandine Henry, Hayley Raso, Lindsay Horan, Mallory Weber (Ashleigh Sykes, 62’) Christine Sinclair.

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Follow Brian Fonseca on Twitter @briannnnf for updates. Email him at brianfilipefonseca@gmail.com with questions, concerns, tips or story ideas.

 

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