HARRISON, N.J. — A late surge from Sky Blue FC helped Carli Lloyd score an equalizer, earning a 1-1 draw against the Orlando Pride Sunday at Red Bull Arena in front an announced crowd of 8,314.
Lloyd’s equalizer came from a corner in the 88th minute. After the ball was sent into the penalty area, all it took was a quick Lloyd header from the center of the box to get her team on the board.
“It just goes to show you,” Lloyd said post-match, “you stay in it for 90 minutes, find a way to win and that’s what matters.”
For the entirety of the first half, though, the Pride dominated. From the start, shots were sent at Kailen Sheridan, which the goalkeeper was able to handle. That included an attempt from Marta 10 minutes into the match, which Sheridan sent to her left. Eventually, the deadlock was broken.
The game’s first goal came courtesy of a free kick, which the Pride earned in the 18th minute. Claire Emslie sent the ball in from the side of the penalty area, which Shelina Zadorsky eventually put away from near the goal. It was her first goal of the National Women’s Soccer League season.
After conceding, Sky Blue earned numerous opportunities to find an equalizer. However, those shots were mixed in with continual possession from the Pride and Sky Blue’s finishing issues. The hosts ended the first half with seven shots, but not a single one on target. Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was also not forced into making a save in the first half. It was, overall, an unideal way to open the match for Sky Blue.
“First half was not one to be proud of,” Sky Blue interim head coach Freya Coombe said. “We just didn’t really connect our passes, struggled to deal with the opposition and just gave them a little bit too much time to play.”
The second half began on a better note for Sky Blue, as the team spent the majority of the opening 10 minutes in search of an equalizer. Earning corner after corner, the Sky Blue created opportunities, but it had a tough time finishing. A Carli Lloyd header in the 55th minute was convincing, but it went over the crossbar.
“We needed to suffocate a little bit more, so that was obviously the change made at halftime,” Coombe said. “Just to look to press them higher up the field and put them under a little bit more pressure, force them into making mistakes, as they had done to us in the first half.”
In some way, the fix was relatively easy.
“Just basically stop giving the ball away was important,” Coombe said.
Eventually, the Pride managed to get into a rhythm, and the two teams traded meaningful stretches of possession and shots with almost no luck. Both sides added to their shot tally; Sky Blue had eight in the second half, the Pride six. However, a late series of attempts meant led to Sky Blue’s equalizer.
Coombe’s disappointment with her side’s first half was matched by Pride coach Marc Skinner’s opinion on the second half. The visitors had the opportunities to put the match away, but ultimately did not, the result of an inconsistency that’s followed the team all season.
“It’s frustrating,” Skinner said. “We’re just not consistent enough. Whether that’s fitness, focus, because when you lose your fitness, you lose your focus which means people are on your shoulders so we have to be better at that.”
During the team’s only shot on target during the 90 minutes, Lloyd’s header secured a draw. Sky Blue had a claim at a penalty after Harris and Eddy tangled for a ball, but the referee did not call for it. Lloyd said she did not believe it was a penalty, but Coombe disagreed.
“I think there was definitely a call for it, but everybody sees soccer in a different way,” Coombe said. “I think it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. I think we needed to put the ball away on a one-v-one and finish the game off there.”
Despite the poor finishing return for Sky Blue, who sit bottom in the league on shot conversion and goals scored, there was a positivity from its members about the result.
“It’s not necessarily a concern,” Coombe said of the shot conversion, “because we saw the problem and we recognized the problem. It’s not the way that we like to go but I don’t think it’s a habit of ours.”
That mood extends to the team’s feelings not just about the match, but about its season, which ends after a match at the North Carolina Courage in two weeks’ time.
“In the second half our effort was better,” Lloyd said. “We’re just going to carry that in and we’ve got one more.”
Sky Blue sit in eighth place, five points above the Pride in ninth place.