PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Sky Blue FC continued its winless season on Saturday, losing 2-1 to the Orlando Pride, a result that has sent the New Jersey club to the bottom of the National Women’s Soccer League table. Here are three takeaways from the match:
Strong reaction after conceding
The match started off relatively even, but after Chioma Ubogagu’s 31st minute penalty put the visitors up, Sky Blue enjoyed a particularly strong spell of the game. The team sent shot after shot at goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer and eventually ended the half with a flurry of chances. Sky Blue came close to scoring when Gina Lewandowski’s 45th minute header came off the crossbar. The same was true after Lewandowski’s own goal in the 81st minute, though the team did not eventually find that equalizer.
Sky Blue captain Sarah Killion said after the match that the team always thinks of the five minutes after a break in play. As a result, the team reacted well after Ubogagu’s goal and has made somewhat of a habit of picking up some intensity after conceding.
“We’ve got to step it up another level, every single time,” Killion said. “The later on in the game, [it] gets a little bit harder to do that, obviously. I would say we’re good at that piece, but in the first place, we don’t want goals scored on us and we want to step it up, no matter what if there is a dead ball on the field.”
Head coach Denise Reddy was pleased with the team’s efforts before the goal, but still noted her team did not allow the goal to crush their spirits.
“I think we were dominating and yeah, they got a goal, and I don’t think we ever sunk,” Reddy said. “I think we kept the level like we said. We were going to have the tempo, we were going to have the level.”
Happy with performances, frustrated with results
For most of Sky Blue’s 2019 season, Reddy and her players have been positive about the way the team has performed. Against the Pride in particular, the team had the majority of possession, 56% to 44%, and recorded 22 shots to the Pride’s six. Five of Sky Blue’s shots were on target to the Pride’s three. Yet, the results have not come at all this season and the team is in danger of replicating last year’s showing of just one win.
“We’re improving,” Killion said. “We dominated, but we’re still falling short on the scoreboard and that’s not good enough. It’s great if we improve, but we need to show it on the scoreboard at the end of the day.”
Reddy, too, was happy with the team’s performance against the Pride. For her, though, she does not see a lot of room for improvement.
“Right now, it’s hard to say, oh, we need to improve on this,” Reddy said. “I guess we got to score more goals. That’s pretty much all I can say because I don’t know. … We’ve got to work on maybe finishing, finishing in crowded situations, which we’ve been doing but we have to keep going over those things because that’s what the difference is, scoring and of course, not letting up goals.”
Now nine matches without a win, the group has had to look at the positives to keep up the morale, Killion said, as well as focusing on short-term improvement.
“There’s no doubt the girls love each other,” Killion said. “We play for each other, we fight for each other day in and day out but we know that we got to win games and I think that that’s just going to come down to every time, every game how we react.”
The pressure continues to be on Reddy, who is now 33 matches into her tenure as the Sky Blue coach. In the meantime, she has decided to focus on matters within her control.
“Of course we have to win, but at the end of the day, the result is not controllable,” Reddy said. “What can you control? You can control putting the team in situations to win the game. Of course I’m not happy. … That’s not what we want. We want to win. I have to win. I know that and I understand that but that’s not something you can control.”
Arrivals and departures
The last few weeks have seen a new addition and players go the other way. Earlier this month, Sky Blue added Elizabeth Eddy from the North Carolina Courage in exchange for McKenzie Meehan, who had played only 14 minutes for Sky Blue this season. Eddy slotted into the lineup on the right side of the three-player forward line Reddy opted for and the coach was happy with the player’s first start.
“I think she did a good job,” Reddy said. “We worked on a different press today so getting that and then when switching between our normal defending situation, it took a few times. After that, I think she fit in and she’s good on the ball and she’s aggressive. She wants the ball. She wants to make things happen so I really think she did well.”
Additionally, a few days earlier, Sky Blue participated in one of the more high profile trades of the NWSL season. Midfielder Savannah McCaskill was traded to the Chicago Red Stars in exchange for first and second round draft picks in the 2020 NWSL draft.
McCaskill had never quite shown off her potential at the New Jersey club, and Reddy confirmed the player had asked for a trade. The coach also said she was pleased with what Sky Blue received in return from the Red Stars, though an already small squad lost a player.