Carli Lloyd celebrates the game-winner. (Photo by Jeffrey Auger)
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Better late than never, they say.
Sky Blue FC avoided a winless season in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon as Carli Lloyd scored a goal late in the second half to give the National Women’s Soccer League side a 1-0 win over Orlando Pride at Yurcak Field.
Lloyd, a U.S. international, tallied in the 74th minute off a Shea Groom feed as Sky Blue FC (9 points) finished the campaign at 1-17-6. Orlando (30) dropped to 8-10-6.
The New Jersey club finished with the fewest points in league history. The record was held by 2016 Boston Breakers (3-15-2), which recorded 11 points that season. Sky Blue FC also broke the mark for the most defeats in a season.
“Needless to say, we are all excited to end the season on a win today,” Sky Blue FC head coach Denise Reddy said. “Before the game, we spoke about putting all of the previous results behind us and just focusing on this opportunity that we had in front of us. We came out with a mentality to just go for it, get it and keep it. These players are so deserving of this result, and I am really happy that they get to finish off the season with a win.”
Sky Blue FC nearly broke the score open in the seventh minute as Groom sent a ball to Imani Dorsey as she raced down the left flank. Dorsey hammered a left-footed shot that banged off the crossbar.
The hosts were up to the task on the other side of the field three minutes later as Christine Nairn sent a ball over the top for Alex Morgan, who appeared to be running into a 1 v 1 situation with goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. At the same time, she was tracked down by Erica Skroski, who stuck out her leg to deflect a would-be shot. Skroski got to the loose ball first and played Christina Gibbons, who cleared it from danger.
In the 20th minute, Skroski sent a feed upfield for Groom, who showed off some fine footwork as she danced through several defenders at top of the penalty area. She sent pass for Dorsey as she entered the box, but an ensuing shot was just wide of the far post.
A fourth first-half save from Sheridan before kept the game scoreless in the 42nd minute. Chioma Ubogagu sent a through-ball to Sydney Leroux inside the box. Leroux fired off a point-blank shot in front of the goal, but Sheridan somehow got a hand on her attempt to keep it clean of the net.
In the 63rd minute, Skroski again showed off the jets on a play where Morgan was delivered a lofting ball into the penalty area. As Morgan headed toward Sheridan, Skroski raced onto the scene to dispossess her and send the ball back in the other direction.
Three minutes later, the crossbar proved to once again be the enemy of Sky Blue FC, as Dorsey carried down the left flank before playing Lloyd on top of the 18. Lloyd headed the ball down for Katie Johnson, who blasted a shot that rattled the crossbar for the second time.
In the 74th minute, Sky Blue FC finally broke through. Groom acquired possession in the midfield and raced towards the 18. She sent a pass to the top of the area, where Lloyd rifled a right-footed strike that shredded the back netting.
With her six saves, Sheridan ended the season with 107. That was one more than Alyssa Naeher’s 2014 total of 106, but she finished the year one save behind Washington Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who set a league record with 108 saves this season.