Kailen Sheridan is mobbed by her Sky Blue FC teammates after winning the shootout. (Photo courtesy of the NWSL)
HERRIMAN, Utah – Sky Blue FC could not find the net again, yet the New Jersey side managed to find a way to reach the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup semifinals Saturday.
That came in the form of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who enjoyed another standout performance at Zions Bank Stadium. She made one key save in the shootout after producing seven during the match. Seventh-seeded Sky Blue FC won the tie-breaker, 4-3, after playing the No. 2 Washington Spirit to a scoreless draw.
In the penalty kicks, Sky Blue went first as team captain Sarah Woldmoe converted. Midfielder Rose Lavelle scored converted for the Spirit. Both teams put in their second penalties, with Nahomi Kawasimo tallying for Sky Blue and Hatch converting for Washington.
Spirit goalkeeper Audrey Bledsoe denied midfielder Dominique Richardson, but Spirit defender Sam Staab was unable to convert her shot, tying the score at 2-2. After McCall Zerboni, Crystal Thomas and Elizabeth Eddy converted their penalties, the shootout entered sudden death.
Sheridan denied Bayley Feist’s attempt, sealing Sky Blue’s passage into the semifinals.
In the opening half, the teams tried to find their rhythm, with the Spirit creating more chances. In the 12th minute, Spirit defender Paige Nielsen sent a long ball to forward Ashley Hatch, who found forward Kumi Yokoyama at the top of the box, but her attemped sailed over the crossbar.
Action in the game picked up after the hydration break, with forward Ashley Sanchez challenging Sheridan often. Sanchez took three shots, all on target, forcing Sheridan to come up with huge saves. Sanchez’s best chance came in the 42nd minute when defender Tori Huster crossed the ball into the box behind Sky Blue’s backline. Sanchez connected with via a diving header, forcing Sheridan to come up big.
The Spirit continued creating chances in the final 20 minutes of the half and headed into the break tied but with 59 percent, while placing four shots on goal to Sky Blue’s one.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half, the Spirit had another opportunity when Hatch took the ball down the line before finding Yokoyama at the top of the box. She unleashed a powerful right-footed shot that hit the crossbar before the ball was cleared out of harm’s way.