Herriman, Utah — Kailen Sheridan has always been up for the task. Penalty kicks are second nature to the Canadian goalkeeper for Sky Blue FC. And, penalty kicks have been a story in the NWSL Challenge Cup. Sheridan stood tall in goal for Sky Blue, helping the club advance to the Challenge Cup semifinals.
Sheridan made a huge penalty save against Bayley Feist. It was the Washington Spirit’s last chance to level with Sky Blue. However, Sheridan’s save propelled Sky Blue to the semifinals, where they will face the winner of OL Reign vs. Chicago Red Stars.
Aubrey Bledsoe, goalkeeper for the Spirit, made one save too, denying Domi Richardson. However, Washington had a miss in addition to Feist’s shot, as Sam Staab went wide.
Sheridan was the busier goalkeeper in regular time, though. The Canadian stopper had to make seven saves, denying Paige Nielsen, Tori Huster, Natalie Jacobs, Ashley Sanchez and Feist. Sanchez took three different attempts at Sheridan.
Sky Blue’s two shots on goal came from Estelle Johnson and Ifeoma Onumonu, which were both saved by Bledsoe.
After the match, Sheridan said that Washington had phenomenal penalty kick takers. However, she also noted that Sky Blue had plenty of positive momentum heading into the match.
“The team is feeling so good,” Sheridan said afterwards. “We’re feeling all the hard work that we put in is paying off. We can see this team take a huge shift from the years before to this year, all the hard work put on… My team had my back, and I could hear them across the field. That pumped me up.”
Sky Blue and head coach Freya Coombe — the only female head coach in the NWSL — will now wait to see who wins between OL Reign and the Red Stars.
— Sky Blue FC (@SkyBlueFC) July 19, 2020
Three Takeaways from Sky Blue FC’s win
- New-look Sky Blue FC: Sky Blue had a ton of roster turnover this past offseason. They brought in a lot of young players, and also a seasoned veteran in McCall Zerboni. With the limited time for a preseason, I was skeptical about how that chemistry would work on the pitch. Sky Blue looked threatening against Washington a few times. It’ll be fun to watch the team in the semifinals.
- The pride of Canada: There have been grumblings over the years of Canadian goalkeepers and who should start. Stephanie Labbé, a stellar goalkeeper in her own right, has been the No. 1 for some time now. However, Sheridan keeps making the case for her to start. She’s consistently one of the best goalkeepers, along with Bledsoe, in the NWSL.
- The real underdogs: Let’s be honest… After multiple seasons toward or at the bottom of the NWSL table, nobody thought Sky Blue was going to win this game. However, it took a lot of grit to earn a victory against a tough, but young Washington team. Bottom line: this isn’t the same Sky Blue FC.
Sky Blue is the real underdog of this tournament. Sorry, Paul Riley.
— Sky Blue FC (@SkyBlueFC) July 18, 2020