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Hayes’ Late Goal Lifts Sky Blue Past Orlando

According to the old adage, quality is better than quantity. And Sky Blue FC proved exactly why, in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over visiting Orlando.

While the New Jersey-based team, which improved to 4-3-1 and a perfect 3-0 at home, only had possession for only 33 percent of the game, it certainly made the best of its time with the ball. Orlando had an 11-10 advantage in shots taken, but only three of the Pride’s shots were on target, while eight of Sky Blue’s were on frame. Saturday’s loss was the Pride’s (1-3-3) first in four games, but it was just another missed opportunity to pick up a point that was well within reach.

Orlando, playing without starting goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris who is expected to be out for eight weeks after suffering a leg injury early in last week’s tie against Seattle, struck first. Defender Camila Pereira slid a ball through to Jasmyne Spencer for the near-post finish but the whole play started with Marta. As she does, the Brazilian superstar drew—and held off—a sea of defenders at the top of the box, before flicking the ball back to Camila.

The Pride hung on to their lead and continued to control play for the majority of the first half before Sam Kerr scored the equalizer in the 43rd minute. The assist went to Daphne Corboz, who picked up a giveaway in the midfield and slotted the ball to Kerr on the left.

Playing its third game in a week, Sky Blue FC seemed content to wait for its chance to counterattack and pounce. That opportunity arose in the 82nd minute when goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was awarded a goal kick after Spencer just missed the upper 90. Sheridan’s kick fell around midfield, where Kerr headed the ball forward about 10 yards to Maya Hayes on the run. After evading Pride defender Alanna Kennedy, Hayes drew Orlando goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe off her line and buried the game-winner for her first goal of 2017.

With many likely wondering what Orlando’s defense would look like without Harris, Bledsoe, making her first appearance of 2017 and only her second National Women’s Soccer League start, certainly held her own, with six solid saves.

Both teams are scheduled to play next Saturday with Sky Blue FC hosting Portland Thorns FC and the Pride taking on the Boston Breakers in Orlando.







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