Both teams were able to share the spoils in this Week 13 matchup between New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC and the Chicago Red Stars. Goals from Christen Press and Sofia Huerta (Chicago), and Sam Kerr and Maya Hayes (Sky Blue) ended this rematch with a tie. Sky Blue had just come off an uplifting win at home against FC Kansas City the week before, and the Red Stars were traveling to New Jersey coming from a tie in Boston against the Breakers.
Chicago Dominates First Half
Early on, the Red Stars displayed consistent possession with multiple opportunities to score. Sky Blue struggled to keep up with Chicago’s constant attack, causing them to make desperate fouls. This began in the 2nd minute when Sky Blue midfielder, Nikki Stanton, was given a yellow card for a foul against Chicago forward, Christen Press. Though the free kick that was taken by Press was punched away by Kailen Sheridan, Chicago’s efforts paid off soonafter. In the fourth minute, Press, who was in a one-on-one against Christie Pearce, played a near-perfect pass to Sofia Huerta. She easily ran onto the ball and scored off a shot that went underneath Sheridan. The visiting team maintained control, and their defense shutting down Sky Blue’s attacks. In the 27th minute, Vanessa Dibernardo lofted a pass to Press who was able to hold her run until just the right moment. She chested the ball down and sent a low shot right past the reaching fingertips of Sheridan.
Sky Blue, being down two goals in the first half for the second week in a row, found motivation and began to increase their pressure in their attacking third. In the 27th minute, Kelley O’Hara had an opportunity to score but was shut down by Chicago goalkeeper and U.S. Women’s National Team teammate, Alyssa Naeher. The New Jersey based team continued efforts to score, which paid off in the 33rd minute. Sam Kerr sent in a cross from the right side, where the ball was headed down by teammate Taylor Lytle. Naeher couldn’t establish enough control over the ball on the ground, which Hayes used to her advantage as she was able to swiftly kick it into the goal.
The rest of the first half remained scoreless, with Sky Blue beginning to try create more opportunities having already been able to convert one to get them on the board. Chicago continued to pressure the home team’s defense but couldn’t finish.
Sheridan’s Key Saves
Throughout the second half, and much like the first, Chicago displayed their constant pressure that they have been known for all season. Press and Alyssa Mautz together had several opportunities to strengthen the Red Stars’ lead, but both were shut down by Sheridan. The rookie out of Clemson was able to make crucial saves during the second half despite overly-patient defending from her backline. She ended the game with seven saves.
Sam Kerr. Again.
Though Sky Blue has been known to score late in the game, especially at Yurcak Field (this match marks the fifth game in the season where Sky Blue has scored in the last ten minutes at home), Chicago seemed to be pretty dominant and possessive over the flow of the game. Kerr had been, for the most part, silenced by the Chicago defense. Sky Blue as a whole were only able to salvage a couple chances to tie the game. That is, until seconds into stoppage time. Midfielder Sarah Killion, who had been playing back since the 69th minute when left-back Kayla Mills was subbed out, decided to run the ball up the right side. She sent in a long ball as a cross to the NWSL all-time leading goal-scorer, Sam Kerr, who, while mimicking the diving header that she scored against FC Kansas City the week before, was able to equalize for Sky Blue. It was Kerr’s tenth goal of the season, and sixth goal in the past four games. The match ended in a 2-2 draw
Both teams will remain in the top four spots that make teams eligible for playoffs when they roll around, with the Red Stars as the second-ranked team, and Sky Blue the third-ranked. Both teams will look to remain in playoff qualification next week as Chicago will play at home against the Orlando Pride in the NWSL Lifetime Game of the Week, and Sky Blue will travel to Seattle for the second time this season to face the fourth ranked-team, the Seattle Reign. Stakes will continue to rise as teams fight for the top four spots that have the potential to send them to the championship in October.