The reigning WPS champions took the field yesterday and Tasha Kai wasted no time in beginning the defense of their title. Kai’s goal early in the game held up through a late flurry of chances by Chicago to give Sky Blue FC a win on opening day.
Neither club was able to muster a dangerous chance before Kai’s goal in just the sixth minute of play. The ball pinged around in the midfield before Carli Lloyd was able to toe poke the ball through to Heather O’Reilly. O’Reilly slotted a ball through Chicago center backs Kate Markgraf and Ifema Dieke to Kai. Kai took a touch before slotting a right footed shot to the far post to put the home side up 1-0.
Chicago’s best scoring opportunity came in the 40th minute when former Sky Blue FC midfielder Julianne Sitch brought down a Brittany Klein cross but her volley was deflected just wide by Keeley Downing. The ensuing corner kick caused a little bit of chaos as the ball pinged around in the Sky Blue area before being cleared out to O’Reilly.
The two teams would go into the locker room with Sky Blue FC holding onto their 1-0 lead.
Chicago continued to press coming out of the locker room, when an Ella Masar back heel found Katie Chapman but the Sky Blue backline was able to poke the ball away before she got a shot off.
Sky Blue almost added to their lead in the 64th minute as a Heather O’Reilly cross connected with Kai but the Chicago defense was able to do enough to allow Loyden to collect the ball.
The hosts had several opportunities late in the game to add an insurance goal with a Jessica Landstrom shot going straight at Loyden in the 75th minute and a Heather O’Reilly cross just barely being punched away from the Swedish forward in the 89th minute.
They were able to weather the storm as Chicago had several chances to tie the game in the latter stages. The win puts Sky Blue into a three way tie for first place with St. Louis and Boston. They will take on Marta and the rest of the FC Gold Pride this Saturday April 17 at Castro Valley Athletic Stadium at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT.
NJ: Tasha Kai 1 (Heather O'Reilly) 7'
Sky Blue FC — Karen Bardsley, Keeley Dowling (Danielle Johnson, 88'), Daphne Koster, Brittany Taylor, Meghan Schnur, Heather O'Reilly, Carli Lloyd, Yael Averbuch (Rosana, 66'), Kacey White, Laura Kalmari, Tasha Kai (Jessica Landstrom, 73')
Substitutes Not Used: Kiersten Dallstream, Katie Schoepfer, Meagan Snell, Ashley Thompson
Chicago Red Stars — Jillian Loyden, Marian Dalmy, Kate Markgraf, Ifeoma Dieke, Whitney Engen (Jessica McDonald, 87'), Kosovare Asllani, Katie Chapman, Brittany Klein, Julianne Sitch (Karen Carney, 66'), Ella Masar (Casey Nogueira, 78'), Cristiane
Substitutes Not Used: Natalie Spilger, Kelsey Davis
Shots on Goal