You can forgive the members of Sky Blue FC if they thought the final whistle might never come in their season finale against the Orlando Pride on Sept. 8 at Yurcak Field. Twenty-three times, Sky Blue had taken the field in 2018, and in each of them, they left without a victory. While there were a few lopsided scores, to say Sky Blue was snake-bitten a bit might be an understatement.
While their record at the time was a cringe-worthy 0-17-6, a full 11 of those defeats came by one goal, and a few of those draws seemed snatched firmly from the claws of victory. The most noteworthy of those came on August 18 against Utah, at home, where Sky Blue took a 2-0 lead in the second half only to watch Amy Rodriguez score to tie it on the last kick of the contest, some five-and-a-half minutes into the announced (minimum of) four minutes of stoppage time.
But on the final day of the season (before an announced 4,068 home fans), Sky Blue finally got its first victory. It didn’t appear early on as though Sky Blue’s luck would be any different at the end of 2018 than it was in the rest, as eventual NWSL Rookie of the Year Imani Dorsey’s shot in the seventh minute rocketed off the crossbar.
However, soon after, Kailen Sheridan, who had endured the majority of Sky Blue’s losses the last two seasons in goal, came up with a couple of fantastic saves, and on Carli Lloyd bobblehead day, it was Lloyd who took a pass from Shea Groom and scored the game’s only goal in the 74th minute and – in a season that had more than its share of documented off-the-field problems as well – the relief was obvious when that final whistle finally did go.
“Before the game, we spoke about putting all of the previous results behind us and just focusing on this opportunity that we had in front of us,” Sky Blue coach Denise Reddy told Once A Metro after the game. “We came out with a mentality to just go for it, get it and keep it. These players are so deserving of this result, and I am really happy that they get to finish off the season with a win.”
The nine points that Sky Blue finished the campaign with is an NWSL record for futility, but is two points ahead of the 2011 Atlanta Beat (of whom Lloyd was also a member), who closed with just seven (in 18 games). Despite their off-field woes, it stands to reason that things should improve on the field for Sky Blue, who has the youngest roster in the league and whose coach now has a year of experience to learn from. The lessons were often hard ones, but for one day – the final one of 24 match days in the 2018 NWSL season – Sky Blue were winners. And no one can take that away from them.