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North Carolina Courage

NWSL Saturday: Courage and Royals battle to hard-fought 2-2 draw

After a late Friday night game, NWSL action returns with two games on Saturday!

Chicago Red Stars 1, Sky Blue FC 1

Sofia Huerta scored just 45 seconds into Chicago’s home clash against Sky Blue, the second-fastest goal in club history. (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

Closing out Saturday’s Week 4 NWSL action, the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC both earned a point in a 1-1 draw in Chicago. 

The Red Stars entered the match after defeating the Houston Dash, 3-0, on Wednesday night, while Sky Blue was the better rested of the two, not having played since their Sunday home opening loss to the Seattle Reign. The Red Stars were also without the services of Sam Johnson, who was a last-minute lineup scratch after tweaking her right leg during pregame warm-ups.

Even so, Chicago was the better team for the majority of the match, starting in the opening minute of the match when forward Sofia Huerta put the home side up, 1-0. In just the 45th second, Huerta sent in a long-distance shross from the far side of the field that sailed over the fingertips of Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and into the netting for the second-fastest Chicago Red Star goal and the fifth-fastest in NWSL history.

Sky Blue looked to have equalized in the 13th minute after Shea Groom, racing down the near side of the field, slid a perfect ball in for Janine Beckie inside the box. Beckie cut back around her defender and buried her shot into the back of the net, but the offside flag went up, negating the equalizer.

The Red Stars put had a number of other opportunities on goal in the first half, but failed to capitalize on any of them. The closest came in the 31st minute when Yuki Nagasato took to air to get her head on the end of a cross inside the box, flicking it on goal, only have her header bounce off the woodwork as she collided with Sheridan. Just before the halftime whistle, Sheridan sent the ball right to Michele Vasconcelos close to goal, but the first-year NWSL player missed a golden opportunity and sent her shot right back into Sheridan’s hands.

Chicago came out of halftime the more dominant side, creating—but unable to finish—multiple looks on goal. Carli Lloyd, determined to get Sky Blue on the board after the team went scoreless in their first three matches, also had a number of good chances on goal in the second half, but Naeher came off her line on all of them to deny the midfielder.

Instead, it would be Savannah McCaskill who would strike next. Second-half substitute Katie Johnson sent the ball in to where McCaskill was waiting, and McCaskill took a couple of touches, held up her run before moving centrally and fired off a shot that deflected off Comeau, bounced past a diving Naeher, and went in to level the score. The goal was Sky Blue’s first of 2018 and the first of McCaskill’s professional career.

McCaskill’s equalizer was enough for the draw, earning the first point of the season for Sky Blue. The Red Stars (2-1-2, 8 points) will next take to the road for a match against the Washington Spirit on Saturday, April 28, while Sky Blue (0-2-1, 1 point) has the week off for their second bye of the season. They will next take the field on Saturday, May 5 when they host the Houston Dash. 

GOAL SUMMARY:

  1. Red Stars – Huerta 1 (Mautz), 1
  2. Sky Blue – McCaskill 1 (Johnson), 78

– Allison Lee

North Carolina Courage 2, Utah Royals FC 2

Utah Royals FC defender Kelley O’Hara (5) and NC Courage defender Merritt Mathias (11) during a match between the NC Courage and the Utah Royals FC in Cary, NC in Week 4 of the 2018 NWSL season. (photo by Lewis Gettier)

NWSL Saturday kicked off with Utah Royals taking the trip to Cary, North Carolina in search of their club’s first-ever win against a first place and undefeated North Carolina Courage who were playing their third game in seven days. The game proved to be a tale of two completely different halves as the Courage and Royals battled to a 2-2 tie Saturday afternoon.

The first chance of the game came in the fourth minute as Crystal Dunn capitalized on a turnover inside the box and sent one across the goal mouth to create a quality chance even though there were no Courage players able to get on the end of it. Only a few minutes later, the Courage got on the board thanks to a superb strike from Merritt Mathias outside the 18 yard box. After a corner kick and a Utah failed attempt to clear completely, Mathias pounced on the loose ball and buried it into the top corner in the 6th minute of play. That was Mathias first goal in a Courage jersey.

Throughout the next 20 minutes, the Courage dominated play as the Royals struggled to get out of their own half. By the 26th minute, Courage held the advantage in corners 6-0 as Jess McDonald got a head on an in-swinger but hit it over the crossbar. In the 36th minute, Kelley O’Hara created the first good look for the Royals as she launched one in on goal forcing Katelyn Rowland to need steady hands to control it. In stoppage time of the first half, the Courage had another chance as they looked to double the lead when Denise O’Sullivan played Lynn Williams in on the left side. Williams took a touch but ended up blasting it high. The Courage then took the 1-0 lead into the halftime break.

The second half opened much like the first as the Courage had a great chance in the 48th minute. Jess McDonald took a crack at goal from inside the box but Abby Smith was able to make the save. Only a few minutes later, the momentum shifted in Utah’s favor for the first time in the match. Katie Stengel put one away in the 52nd minute after capitalizing on a miscommunication between Rowland and Abby Dahlkemper. Stengel got her head the  loose ball and put away the equalizer for Utah.

In the 57th minute, Kristen Hamilton got a foot on a Courage corner to try and take the lead once again, but her volley was saved by Smith pretty easily. Nine minutes later, it was Utah, again capitalizing on a mistake by the Courage. Stengel put the pressure on Rowland forcing a poor clearance out of the back that went right to the feet of Brittany Ratcliffe who rocketed one into the back of the net to give Utah the lead through 66 minutes.

In the 80th minute, it was another goalkeeper miscue, this time by Abby Smith as the Courage took advantage of an open net to tie it back up at 2-2 after a goal that was credited to Crystal Dunn.

Up next, the Courage (4-0-1, 13 pts) take on the Houston Dash next Saturday at 3:30pm ET on Lifetime and the Utah Royals (0-1-3, 3 pts) take on the Portland Thorns FC also on Saturday at 9pm ET.

GOAL SUMMARY:

  1. Courage – Mathias 1 (unassisted), 6
  2. Royals – Stengel 1 (unassisted), 52
  3. Royals – Ratcliffe 1 (unassisted), 66
  4. Courage – Dunn 2 (unassisted), 80

– Hannah Kronick

Week 4 of the 2018 NWSL season concludes tomorrow evening as the Orlando Pride take on the Houston Dash at 5 p.m. ET.

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