HARRISON, N.J. — Sky Blue FC’s first-half lead was quickly canceled out by the visiting Reign FC and the teams shared points at the end of the first National Women’s Soccer League match played at Red Bull Arena.
The match was moved 30 miles north of Sky Blue’s Yurcak Field home in Piscataway, N.J., after demand exceeded the capacity of 5,000. The announced attendance Sunday against the Reign was 9,415, a record crowd for the club.
“This atmosphere is up there with the best,” Sky Blue captain Sarah Killion said following her 100th match for the club. “9000 of our screaming fans cheering for us, and not going silent when we shoot on frame or something like that, it makes all the difference throughout the game.”
Though the Reign dominated the first half, Sky Blue scored first courtesy of an Elizabeth Eddy goal in the 36th minute. Receiving a ball over the top from Kenie Wright, who made her first professional start, Eddy eventually chipped goalkeeper Casey Murphy in the box for the finish.
“I don’t think that they’ve really given a team an easy time in any game,” Reign midfielder Allie Long said. “I think their mentality is strong, they fight for everything, every 50-50, every call. I think that says a lot about them as a group.”
The celebrations were short-lived, though. Reign scored an equalizer just two minutes later. Allie Long’s cross found Jodie Taylor in the center of the penalty area and the England international finished easily from there.
“We were winning so anytime you’re winning, obviously, it feels like a loss if they come back,” Sky Blue defender Estelle Johnson said. “In hindsight … they’re a great team.”
The goal was a reward for what was a strong first half for the visitors, spending the majority of it working at their own will. As a result, the Reign kept the Sky Blue defense busy managing eight shots overall in the first half, including an early effort by Taylor that was ultimately wide of the goal. Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was once again active, making two saves in the first half.
Though the Reign had a successful first half in terms of performance, the team was dealt a blow when Shea Groom had to come off in the 19th minute after colliding heads with Carli Lloyd. Though Lloyd was fine, Groom required a stretcher to exit the field.
The second half started off much like the first, with the Reign dominating. Sheridan was called on to make two saves in the opening 10 minutes, though Sky Blue grew into the half as it continued. Eventually, Sky Blue was managing stretches of time and testing the Reign. An effort from Paige Monaghan midway through the half landed straight in the hands of Murphy, but both sides continued to press for a game-winner.
Reign’s Rosie White had a chip that went just over the goal, but toward the end of the match, it seemed as if Sky Blue was more likely to find that goal. The team kept making forward runs as the match drew closer to its conclusion. An 85th-minute free kick was sent north of the goal and an unsuccessful Lloyd chance in stoppage time essentially secured a draw for the two sides.
Hugo Macedo said that the team showed fatigue from playing midweek, a 2-1 win at Yurcak Field against the Chicago Red Stars, though he was pleased with how the match played out.
“We had a good performance,” he said, adding that he felt a fairy tale ending was once again in store when before Lloyd’s shot. He did admit, though, a prevailing feeling was that of frustration.
“We felt like we could got the win,” Macedo said as his side ended the match with nine shots, three on target.
It was a sentiment shared by the Reign, in the midst of a battle for a playoff spot. The visitors had 18 shots, six on target in what was a clear demonstration of their dominance.
“Good starting point for us on the road,” Long said, “but I think we should have three today.”
The result keeps Sky Blue in eighth place in the NWSL table, while Reign FC is in fifth after the Utah Royals beat the Washington Spirit Saturday.