In the first weekend of the 2018 NWSL preseason, a number of clubs took to the field for some early competition. Although clubs were without most of their internationals—including the U.S. and Canadian women’s national team players, currently in camp ahead of next week’s FIFA window—the weekend presented an opportunity for non-national team players and trialists in camp to show their merit.
While the Chicago Red Stars played a closed-door match against Marquette University on Saturday, February 24, while three others players matches open to the public. Here’s a quick recap of this weekend’s preseason action.
Sky Blue FC 0, Penn State 1
Sky Blue FC opened their preseason competition with a 1-0 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Although the NWSL club had a number of close opportunities on goal throughout the match, it was a 73rd-minute goal by Penn State redshirt junior Ellie Jean that was the deciding factor.
Many of the New Jersey-based club’s scoring opportunities came from the attacking trio of McKenzie Meehan and newcomers Shea Groom and Jen Hoy in the opening half. Despite a handful of chances for the three, a standout performance by PSU goalkeeper Rose Chandler, as well as an unfortunate shot off the post by Groom in the 43rd minute, prevented the professional side from getting on the board.
“I am pleased with what our players did today,” Sky Blue FC Head Coach Denise Reddy said in the team’s official statement. “We worked all week on a certain aspect of our playing style, and applying it today was our main focus. Technically and tactically, we had a few breakdowns, but our players stayed true to what was asked of them throughout this match.”
Reddy began a heavy series of substitutions in the second half, including replacing starting goalkeeper Caroline Casey with trialist Kaycee Guinion. While the second-half Sky Blue lineup was just as frustrated by Chandler as the first-half XI had been, Penn State was able to capitalize off a scramble inside the box that saw Jean sneak the ball past Guinion for the lone tally of the match.
Sky Blue will look to fare better next weekend when they return to the field to take on the University of North Carolina on Saturday, March 3 at 3:00 p.m. ET.
Sky Blue FC Starting XI: Caroline Casey; Erin Simon, Mandy Freeman, Erica Skroski, Christina Gibbons; Domi Richardson, Sarah Killion, McKenzie Meehan; Shea Groom, Jen Hoy, Madison Tiernan
Second-Half Substitutes: Kaycee Guinion (NRI), Tori Corsaro (NRI), Raquel Rodriguez, Kayla Mills, Cassidy Benintente, Kelly Conheeney, Michaela Abam, Ani Sarkisian (NRI), Christa Neary, Jessica Vigna (NRI), Alli Magaletta (NRI)
*NRI: non-roster invitee
Houston Dash 0, Dynamo Academy U-15s 3
The Houston Dash were one of the first clubs to take the field for competition during the 2018 preseason, scrimmaging against Rise Soccer Club, a local U-15 boys’ team, on the opening day of preseason. The Dash came out of Monday’s match unscathed, winning 2-0.
The Dash weren’t as lucky Saturday night, falling to the Houston Dynamo Academy U-15 team, 3-0. The competition was a big step up from Monday night’s, and the Dash’s weeklong training time paled in comparison to the boys’ side’s extensive time training together.
“It’s always tough to play against boys, especially on turf,” Rachel Daly, who played right back for the Dash, told Houston Chronicle reporter Corey Roepken following the loss. “(Our) quality has come out. People are in different positions doing really well. As a back line, we were good. They have the advantage with their pace, their height, their presence, but I think it came out what we wanted to do in glimpses, which is nice.”
The Dash return to action on Friday, March 2 when they take on reigning SEC Champions, Texas A&M, at Ellis Field in College Station.
North Carolina Courage 2, UNC 0
The North Carolina Courage opened their preseason competition with a convincing 2-0 win over NCAA Division 1 powerhouse University of North Carolina (UNC) on Sunday afternoon. Darian Jenkins, who was taken as the No. 7 overall draft pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft before missing her rookie season because of injury, scored a brace to hand the win to the pros.
“Solid start to 2018,” Paul Riley, head coach of the Courage, said in the team’s official press release following the match. “Obviously we came in with some heavy legs, but I was happy with the effort and the desire. Preseason matches against top college programs like UNC certainly help us develop full match fitness. Today was an excellent challenge, and we got to see a few glimpses of how our 2018 version of the Courage will look like.”
Jenkins’ first goal came shortly after she entered the game during the first half. A quick one-two play with Meredith Speck resulted with the ball at her feet just outside the left side of the six-yard box. She perfectly timed her shot to beat both a Tar Heel defender and the goalkeeper to put the Courage on the board.
— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) February 25, 2018
Her second goal came in the final 45 minutes of the match, when she made a run to the top of the box to receive a long pass sent in from Debinha from outside the 18. Jenkins one-timed the pass into the back of the net, securing a brace for the Courage win.
— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) February 25, 2018
Jenkins nearly headed in a third goal to complete a hat trick minutes later but missed the mark. Goalkeepers Sabrina D’Angelo and Katelyn Rowland shared time in net for the Courage, combining for the clean sheet.
The Courage will next travel to North Carolina State on Thursday, March 1, where they’ll play their second preseason match against the Wolfpack.
North Carolina Courage Starting XI: Sabrina D’Angelo; Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Erceg, Alyssa Kleiner, Merritt Mathias; Debinha, Meredith Speck, Elizabeth Eddy, McCall Zerboni; Jessica McDonald, Kristen Hamilton