Jessica McDonald delivered a stoppage time goal, lifting the North Carolina Courage to a last-minute 1-0 win over visiting Sky Blue FC Saturday afternoon.
Left back Jaelene Hinkle set up McDonald on the right side of the box with a pass that split the Sky Blue FC backline. McDonald then slipped to the right of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan as she dove forward and pushed the ball across into the back of the empty net two minutes into second-half stoppage time.
Sky Blue (0-1-0, 0 points) could not find an equalizer in the final minute of stoppage time, sealing North Carolina’s (2-0-0, 6 pointS) strong start to the NWSL season.
“The game grinds on, you think to yourself maybe we’re not going to get that one big opportunity,” Courage coach Paul Riley said. “I think they worked hard enough to win in the end, and we got the opportunity.”
While Carli Lloyd was pushing for a strong debut with her hometown team, the New Jersey side did not record a shot on target. Sky Blue was frustrated by Hinkle, right back Merritt Mathias, center back Abby Erceg and center back Abby Dahlkemper.
“I felt that we did really well in the first half,” Sky Blue coach Denise Reddy said. “We were able to possess the ball for longer periods of time, and we prevented them from getting behind our back line.
“In the second half, we lost some of our rhythm and were unable to keep possession as long. We spent so much time defending that we started to get ourselves pinned back a bit.”
After the international break, Sky Blue will host Seattle Reign for its home opener April 15 at Yurcak Field. North Carolina will play its first road game, facing the Washington Spirit on April 14.
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