Rodriguez Buries Late Game-Winner in Sky Blue FC Home Opener

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Sky Blue FC | National Women's Soccer League
Photo by Robyn McNeil, ISI Photos.

Sky Blue FC Defeats FC Kansas City at Yurcak Field, 1-0

Sky Blue FC (1-1-1, 4 points) returned to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) action on Sunday, defeating FC Kansas City (1-2-0, 3 points) in its 2017 home opener at Yurcak Field, 1-0. Recording her first professional clean sheet in the match was Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, with Costa Rica international Raquel Rodriguez burying an 82nd minute game-winner to secure Saker ShopRites Woman of the Match honors.

“This game was more about the win than it was about the performance,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “We stressed from the very start that we wanted to set the tone for the rest of the season tonight. We are very fortunate to have such fantastic fans, and we wanted to give them something to be excited about.”

With defender Christie Pearce out of action this evening, Sky Blue FC played the full 90 minutes in the back with three first-year players in Sheridan and the defensive duo of Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman. Alongside them were two second-year players in Erica Skroski and Erin Simon, with a grand total of 46 starts among all five of them combined. After the group battled every bit of the way for 90 minutes, they left Yurcak Field with the first shutout of the young season for Sky Blue FC.

“Getting the clean sheet was something that was very important to us,” Holly continued. “On the back line, we had three first-year and two second-year players, and each of them showed a tremendous level of maturity. Even though she was unable to play this evening, Christie Pearce was an incredible asset for our team throughout the entire week by talking to players and giving them an additional level of reassurance. Admittedly, we still have a lot to learn, but we are very proud of our performance tonight and the mentality that was carried into the game.”

Over the first half-hour, this match saw some good back-and-forth play as both sides were able to prevent too many opportunities from occurring in the final third.

In the 36th minute, the first true scoring chance happened for FC Kansas City, as forward Maegen Kelly collected on her offensive side of the field before feeding a well-struck through-ball to the feet of Brittany Ratcliffe. The service led Ratcliffe into a 1v1 situation with Sheridan right in front of the goal, but the Canada international aggressively came off her line to smother the ball.

During the final stretch, it appeared that this match could be headed towards a draw, but the Sky Blue FC attack picked up its intensity in an effort to secure the three points that were available to them. In the 78th minute, U.S. international Kelley O’Hara and midfielder Daphne Corboz nearly found the go-ahead notch on a nice give-and-go series, but FC Kansas City netminder Nicole Barnhart was able to jump on the ball before any damage could be done.

In the 82nd minute, the deadlock was finally broken. Playing in her professional debut, forward McKenzie Meehan took a shot that was saved by Barnhart, but the strike was tricky enough to earn a corner kick. Putting the ball into play on the ensuing corner was O’Hara, finding Freeman on the far side of the penalty area. The 2016 NCAA College Cup champion then played the ball inside for Rodriguez, who was able to stretch and poke the ball past Barnhart with her left foot to give her side a late advantage, 1-0.

The Rodriguez tally eventually proved the be the lone tally of the evening, officially becoming the game-winner when the final whistle was blown just minutes later.

In addition to Meehan making her professional debut, also of note was the first professional match by midfielder Madison Tiernan at Yurcak Field, a place where she played for four years while attending Rutgers University. The outing marked her second appearance of the season after making her professional debut last weekend in Boston. Another key item is Freeman’s assist on the Rodriguez goal was the first of her professional career.

Two other significant notes from the result tonight include this victory being the first-ever win for Sky Blue FC over FC Kansas City at Yurcak Field. Additionally, tonight was the first time that Sky Blue FC was victorious in its home opener since the inaugural season of NWSL in 2013.

Sky Blue FC will now hit the road again for its next two fixtures, first playing the Washington Spirit on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. The team will return to Yurcak Field on Saturday, May 20, hosting the Houston Dash in the NWSL Lifetime Game of the Week. Kickoff for that match is slated for 4:00 p.m., and tickets are available now online or by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849).

For all of the latest news on Sky Blue FC, visit the team online and follow us on social media: @SkyBlueFC

NWSL Match Report

Match: Sky Blue FC vs. FC Kansas City

Date: April 30, 2016

Venue: Yurcak Field; Piscataway, New Jersey

Attendance: 2562

Weather: 56 degrees, chilly

Scoring Summary:

NJ: 0 | 0 – 1

KC 0 | 0 – 0

82 NJ Raquel Rodriguez (Mandy Freeman)

Lineups:

NJ: Sheridan, Simon, Skroski, Freeman, Mills, Hayes (Tiernan-70), Rodriguez, Killion, Lytle (Galton-66), Corboz (Meehan-80), O’Hara

Subs not used: Casey, Stanton, DeCesare, Richardson

Head Coach: Christy Holly

KC: Barnhart, Gibbons, Averbuch, Sauerbrunn, Taylor, Scott, LaBonta, Ratcliffe (Tymrak-89), Kelly (Newfield-80), Bowen (Flynn-63), Leroux

Subs Not Used: Parkhill, Reed, Moros

Head Coach: Vlatko Andonovski

Stats Summary: KC / NJ

Shots:  9/ 8

Saves:  2 / 3

Corner Kicks: 3 / 5

Fouls:  13 / 8

Offside:  4 / 0

Misconduct Summary:

74 NJ Raquel Rodriguez (Yellow Card)

90 NJ Madison Tiernan (Yellow Card)

Officials:

Referee: Kevin Broadley

Assistant Referee 1: Art Arustamyan

Assistant Referee 2: Gjovalin Bori

Fourth Official: Joe Zawistowski

Saker ShopRites Woman of the Match: Raquel Rodriguez