Piscataway, N.J — Sam Kerr’s bicycle kick pleased the home crowd of 3,065, but ultimately Sky Blue FC fell to the Orlando Pride 3-2 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J. Sky Blue conceded two goals in the game’s final 13 minutes to Pride forwards Marta and Rachel Hill, after going up 2-1 on Kerr’s bike.
Kerr’s brilliant goal came right after halftime, before some fans had even settled back into their seats. Forward Maya Hayes dribbled down the left wing and into the box. Hayes’ initial cross was blocked by Orlando, but bounced back to her near the end line. She then looped it back behind her to Kerr, who had her back to goal on the left side of the six yard box. The 23-year-old Australian then unleashed the bicycle kick, hitting it over her head with her right foot past Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe to break a 1-1 deadlock.
Marta equalized in the the 77th minute on a play she started about 30 yards from goal. The Brazilian took a long ball from Ali Krieger and dribbled left before passing it to Hill, who had entered the game only 10 minutes earlier. The rookie then tapped it to Steph Catley a few steps ahead of her. Catley sent a low cross into the box, and Sky Blue FC defender Mandy Freeman’s misclear bounced right to Marta, open at the penalty spot. The Brazilian cooly one-timed a left-footed shot through three defenders and past Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan for her league-leading sixth goal of the season.
— NWSL (@NWSL) June 29, 2017
“I wish I knew the answer to that. It’s probably why she’s such a great player,” Pride coach Tom Sermanni said when asked how Marta still finds herself open in dangerous spots after such a long career.
“She rarely makes a poor decision. And she’s just got a knack of being able to read the game ahead of other players.”
Hill put Orlando ahead in the 86th minute, heading a cross from Catley past Sheridan to make it 3-2 in favor of the visitors. Once again, it was Marta who started the play with a backheel flick to the overlapping Catley, who then passed it to Hill.
The rookie forward scored the game-winner, and her first career goal, in front of a large cheering section as her family had driven up to Yurcak Field from Pennsylvania.
“I think I might’ve closed my eyes but ended up in the back of the net,” Hill said of her goal. As for scoring in front of friends and family? “I couldn’t have pictured it any better,” she said.
— NWSL (@NWSL) June 29, 2017
Hill, a rookie out of UConn joined the Pride at the end of May. She started her first three games for Orlando before coming in as a second half sub Wednesday night.
Even before the late game dramatics, the first half of the match had quite a bit of drama of its own.
The Pride took a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute on a goal from Chioma Ubogagu before conceding two penalty kicks before halftime.
The first one, taken by Sarah Killion in the 20th minute, was saved by Bledsoe. A foul by Ali Krieger on Daphne Corboz drew the spot kick. It was Killion’s third straight penalty kick miss after scoring four straight to start the season.
Sky Blue’s second penalty attempt came in the 45th minute and was converted by Kelley O’Hara after Catley fouled Kerr. O’Hara’s goal tied the game 1-1 at halftime.
When these two teams last met — at Yurcak Field on May 27 — it was Sky Blue who stole three points with a late game-winner. Wednesday, it was Orlando’s turn.
Sky Blue FC (5-6-1, 12 points) next faces the first-place Courage in North Carolina on Saturday (NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime, 3:30 p.m. ET). The Pride (4-4-3, 11 points) head home to host the Red Stars on Saturday.