PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Two goals in a three-minute span gave the visiting Chicago Red Stars a first-half lead that led to a dominant 3-0 victory over Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field on Sunday.
The first of those two goals came from Morgan Brian, who scored her first National Women’s Soccer League goal in the 31st minute. Sam Kerr received the ball on the endline and turned around before sending it into the penalty box. The loose ball found Brian, who scored from the center of the box.
The goal and its follow-up disrupted what had been a fairly even match. Much like the Red Stars’ previous visit to Yurcak, the two sides were locked in a midfield battle that had resulted in split possession and few meaningful goalscoring opportunities by the half-hour mark.
“I think we had a strong start,” Sky Blue interim head coach Freya Coombe said following the match. “We looked to be controlling the game at the start but then it just got away from us with a couple of lapses of concentration for the goals so that was disappointing.”
Two minutes before Brian’s goal, Sky Blue’s Carli Lloyd had the ball to herself, only for defenders to catch up as she sprinted into the box before a few heavy touches and a shot cleanly saved by Chicago keeper Alyssa Naeher.
“I would say they actually have the best chance of the game before we scored, when Carli got it,” Red Stars head coach Rory Dames said. “Alyssa bailed us out.”
The Red Stars then added to their lead with a goal from Kerr herself. Yuki Nagasato skillfully sent the box past a number of Sky Blue defenders and straight to Kerr. The Australian then scored from a one-on-one situation after making her way into the penalty area.
“It’s not good enough and we know that,” Sky Blue captain Sarah Killion said. “I think that making mistakes against a team like that and giving up two goals that quickly really deflates you.”
The two-goal lead was followed by a dominant display for the Red Stars for the remainder of the half. Managing easy access to the goal, the team successfully began shutting out Sky Blue. The halftime score remained 2-0.
The Red Stars picked up where they left off to begin the second half, but Sky Blue managed to find a few opportunities. Lloyd again had a notable chance in the 62nd minute, with her shot from an angle saved by Naeher. Eventually, though, the maintained Red Stars strength led to another goal for the visitors.
“We came back into the game in the second half, and we put them under pressure, but just failed to take our chances and really make it count,” Coombe said. “[We] got a sucker punch the other end.”
Substitute Zoey Goralski received the ball on the endline and made her way around a defender before sending the ball to Nagasato on the edge of the penalty area. From there, Nagasato took one touch to put the chance away in the 80th minute.
Sky Blue had another late surge of shots, but barely threatened Naeher and the Red Stars’ defense.
“The game comes [down] to taking chances,” Dames said. The Red Stars came into Sunday’s match after two consecutive weeks playing midweek and weekend matches, winning against Sky Blue and at the Orlando Pride the match before. “It was huge for us because our players were tired today,” Dames said, “so credit to them.”
The result put the Red Stars second in the NWSL table, two points behind league leader North Carolina. Sky Blue, already eliminated from playoff contention, ended the match in eighth place, two points above the last-place Orlando Pride.