Sky Blue FC celebrates Raquel Rodriguez’s goal. Sky Blue Photo by Robyn McNeil, ISI Photos.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Costa Rican international Raquel Rodriguez scored in the 82nd minute to boost Sky Blue FC to a 1-0 victory over FC Kansas City in its home opener at Yurcak Field Sunday night.
The result proved to be a pair of firsts for the Jersey side as Sky Blue defeated KC for the first time on its home turf as it also secured a win in a home opener for the first time since the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League season.
Kailen Sheridan recorded her first professional shutout before a crowd of 2,562.
“This game was more about the win than it was about the performance,” Sky Blue FC head coach Christy Holly said. “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 veteran defender Christie Pearce sidelined due to a concussion protocol, Sky Blue FC played the full 90 minutes on defense with three first-year players in Sheridan and Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman. Alongside them were two second-year players, Erica Skroski and Erin Simon, with a total of professional 46 starts among the five.
“Getting the clean sheet was something that was very important to us,” Holly said. “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.”
In the 36th minute, FC Kansas City had the first scoring opportunity, as forward Maegen Kelly fed a well-struck through ball to Brittany Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe embarked on a 1 v 1 situation with Sheridan in front of the net, but the Canada international came off her line to smother the ball.
It appeared that the game was heading for a tie, but the Sky Blue FC attack picked up its intensity.
In the 78th minute, U.S. international Kelley O’Hara and midfielder Daphne Corboz nearly found the go-ahead goal on a give-and-go series, but goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart jumped on the ball.
Rodriguez finally broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute. Forward McKenzie Meehan, making her pro debut, took a shot that was saved by Barnhart, but the ball went out of bounds for a corner kick. O’Hara’s corner found Freeman on the far side of the penalty area. Freeman, a 2016 NCAA College Cup champion, played the ball inside for Rodriguez, who poked the ball past Barnhart with her left foot.
In addition to Meehan’s debut, midfielder Madison Tiernan also played her first pro match at Yurcak Field, 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.
Sky Blue FC will now hit the road again for its next two fixtures, first playing the Washington Spirit Saturday at 7 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 Saturday, May 20 at 4 p.m.
82′ — NJ Raquel Rodriguez (Mandy Freeman)
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
74 NJ Raquel Rodriguez (Yellow Card)
90 NJ Madison Tiernan (Yellow Card)
Referee: Kevin Broadley
Assistant Referee 1: Art Arustamyan
Assistant Referee 2: Gjovalin Bori
Fourth Official: Joe Zawistowski