Fans of the U.S. Women’s National Team from New Jersey were treated to a thrilling World Cup send-off for Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath and the other national team players present in a 2-2 draw between Sky Blue FC and Portland Thorns on Sunday night in Piscataway.
Lloyd, the 36-year-old Delran native, found the back of the net twice in the first half and hit the post in a bid for a hat trick midway through the second half that would have put the home team back in front. Heath orchestrated a comeback that erased the lead in a two-minute span. Her well-placed free kick led to an Emily Sonnett goal off a pass from Christine Sinclair and two minutes later Heath’s clever backheel in front of goal leveled the score.
Lloyd’s goals were the first of the season for Sky Blue, which dropped its season opener 2-0 on the road to the Washington Spirit and fell 1-0 to Houston Dash in their home opener last weekend.
“The girls were messing with (Carli) in the locker room were like you’re leaving can’t you give us a little something-something today,” Sky Blue head coach Denise Reddy said. “In the last two games we had 10 shots total, the goal today was 13 shots and six on goal so we got 16 shots so that looks good up there.”
An announced crowd of 1,358 was somewhat split between those rooting for Basking Ridge, New Jersey native Tobin Heath and the Portland Thorns, those rooting for all of the U.S. women’s national team players and those pulling for the home team.
The gap between the two teams that existed last year between a Sky Blue team that won only once on the last day of the season and a Thorns team that hosted the NWSL final was hard to find through much of the night Sunday at Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field.
“This is the team that we are and I hope you guys can see the physicality, the fluidness in the movement, the aggressiveness,” said Sky Blue defender Erica Skroski, a South Jersey native from Galloway Township. “That’s who we want to be and that’s who we are and I think that really started to show tonight.”
Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, who is expected to make the U.S. squad, said the performance on the whole wasn’t good enough for the visitors.
“We came out really well in the first couple minutes and we kind of slacked off and they punished us, they capitalized on opportunities, so did we actually so the fact that we came back is good character that we want,” she said. “We need to look back on the things we didn’t do well and fix those.”
Opportunities were there for both teams in the second half with the Thorns putting Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan under pressure, but the counter was also on for the home side. Lloyd’s shot hit the post at the hour mark and Raquel Rodríguez’s volley off a finely played cross from Nahomi Kawasumi missed the mark 10 minutes later.
“There’s not many times you’ll play one of the best teams in the league that has all their national team players, go two zero, then two-two at halftime and then at the final whistle I’m pissed because I think we deserved the three points,” Reddy said.
Sky Blue FC returns home for an afternoon game on May 11 against the Washington Spirit after an away game this weekend at defending NWSL champs North Carolina Courage.