SANTA MONICA — The National Women’s Soccer League is three-fourths of the way done with its season, and a few things are becoming clear. Utah has become the Kryptonite to North Carolina’s super human demeanor. Sky Blue can’t find a way to finish a game on top ins its battles while the rest of the league fights for the final three playoff spots.
UTAH 0, NORTH CAROLINA 0
Utah has become the bane of North Carolina’s existence as it remains the single team undefeated by the Courage. Utah held North Carolina Courage off 0-0 Friday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Royals seem to be the only team the NCC can’t beat. Utah’s managed to pull off 2-2 and 1-0 results over its last two meet ups, and this time was no different. The Utah Royals took control of the game, focusing on a defensive position with a 4-2-3-1 set up and waiting for prime opportunities to take. They maintained 60 percent of the possession and a 69 percent passing accuracy. Utah’s defense stepped up disrupting most of of North Carolina’s shots and keeping the shots away from goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, keeping 17 of 21 shots off goal.
However, North Carolina didn’t let Utah’s laid back demeanor go unchallenged. The NWSL leaders went 4 for 21 on goal and recorded eight corners. The Courage stuck to its usual 4-4-2 set up but couldn’t find a way into goal as Barnhart shut down their four shots on frame and causing Utah to continue to avoid a loss to North Carolina. Though the game may have been different had both teams not been down star players who are currently away for the Tournament of Nations.
NCC move to 14-4-1 on the season and return to the pitch on Sunday to face the Portland Thorns at 3 p.m. PT at Sahlen’s Stadium. Utah moves to 5-7-6 in the standings and resume play Sunday, Aug. 5, at 5:30 p.m. PT to face Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium.
PORTLAND 2, SKY BLUE FC 1
It took Portland six minutes and some change to show Sky Blue exactly how the game was going to go, but the New Jersey team didn’t take it lying down. Sky Blue’s rally fell short in a 2-1 loss Saturday night at Yurcak Field.
New Jersey showed some great effort in an attempt to rally back against Portland. In the 27th minute, Sky Blue’s Savannah McCaskill sent a through ball to Imani Dorsey who was crashing to goal. Drawing out Portland keeper Britt Eckerstrom, Dorsey shot the ball. While Eckerstrom managed to deflect the ball, the touch wasn’t enough to disrupt the ball’s path to goal, cutting Sky Blue’s deficit to one.
Portland managed to continue to survive after allowing the one goal. New Jersey went hard after cutting their deficit, taking up to as many as four or five shots in an attack on Portland, but the Thorns original two goals held true. Portland’s Hayley Raso drew first blood against New Jersey in the fourth minute as fakes out a Sky Blue defender and shoots for the upper 90 to claim a 1-0 lead. Three minutes later Portland was repeating the results. A misplayed ball by Sky Blue’s keeper Carline Casey placed the ball right at Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic’s feet. The forward made Casey pay for her mistake, pushing the ball straight back at the goal to extend Portland’s lead 2-0.
Portland improved to 8-5-5 on the season while Sky Blue falls further to 0-3-13. Portland returns Sunday to face NCC at 3 p.m. PT at Sahlen’s Stadium. Sky Blue returns to the pitch on Sunday, Aug. 5, to face Orlando at 4:30 p.m. PT at Orlando City Stadium.
In other news around the league, Orlando and Seattle tied 1-1 Saturday afternoon while Houston defeated Washington 1-0 on Sunday.