Ifeoma Onumonu scored Sky Blue FC’s lone goal. (Photo courtesy of Sky Blue FC)
SBRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – A poor first half doomed Sky Blue FC as it lost to the Chicago Red Stars, 4-1, in the team’s second match of the NWSL Fall Series Sunday.
Sky Blue (1-1-0, 3 points) allowed three goals in the opening 45 minutes and that was too deep of a hole to climb out of at SeatGeek Stadium.
“We had many good opportunities today,” Sky Blue head coach Freya Coombe said. “I think we just weren’t firing on all cylinders, but the fact that we had a good number of chances is pleasing, and it shows we are moving in the right direction.”
Kealia Watt scored twice for the Red Stars.
Sky Blue put the pressure on the defense from the start and its efforts paid off in the sixth minute. Midfielder Jennifer Cudjoe played the ball out wide to forward Paige Monaghan, who drove into the box from the right side and played in the ball across the goal. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher dove to stop the cross but deflected it to forward Ifeoma Onumonu. She tapped the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Only four minutes later, Chicago equalized. Forward Kealia Watt was played in behind the Sky Blue backline after making a darting run from the left side. Goalkeeper DiDi Haracic came out to close down the angle on Watt, who slotted the ball was slotted past her.
In the 17th minute, Chicago was back looking for more, when the ball was played to an onrushing Vanessa DiBernardo at the top of the six. Haracic was quick off her line to take the ball off the midfielder’s feet.
The match then began to settle into a rhythm, with Sky Blue building its possession and Chicago looking to counte. In the 27th minute, Red Stars defender Bianca St. Georges intercepted and played the ball over the backline to forward Zoey Goralski. She chipped the ball around an oncoming Haracic to give the shots a 2-1 advantage.
Sky Blue’s best chance for a second goal came in the 42nd minute. Onumonu took on her defender and opened space for herself in the upper right corner of the box. She drove a shot on the ground towards the far post, but it went just wide.
Two minutes later, Chicago grabbed a 3-1 halftime lead as Watt played a ball to DiBernardo, who was waiting at the top of the box. DiBernardo struck the ball off a half-volley into the left side netting.
In the 57th minute, Watt found herself behind the defense. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who entered the match at halftime, came off her line to stop the forward. However, Watt slotted the ball past Sheridan into the lower right-hand corner of the net for her third goal.
Following the goal, Sky Blue’s attack began to push for a comeback. In the 72nd minute, Onumonu once again created space for herself on the right side of the box and sent in a shot to the far post that was just inches wide of the net.
Sky Blue kept pushing for a goal into stoppage time, and they almost found the back of the net when the ball fell to midfielder Domi Richardson at the top of the box, but her volley went just wide of the Chicago goal. Right before the final whistle, Sky Blue midfielder Sarah Woldmoe drove a shot to the near post from the top of the box, but Naeher was able to come up with the save, securing the 4-1 victory for the Red Stars.
Sky Blue FC next will play the Washington Spirit in its first home match of the Fall Series at Montclair State University Oct. 3 at 12:30 p.m.
“Chicago and Washington are very different teams,” Sky Blue defender Gina Lewandowski said. “A lot of Chicago’s goals came from our mistakes. It was just really minor things, and I think we kind-of gave Chicago the match. I don’t anticipate we will do the same against Washington.”