On the scoreboard, Sky Blue FC didn’t get a win against Reign FC on Sunday afternoon, playing to a 1-1 draw. The day, however, can be chalked up as a victory for the club.
Playing at Red Bull Arena, Sky Blue set their club attendance record as 9,415 fans watched the matinee in Harrison, N.J.
“It’s really special,” said Sky Blue midfielder and New Jersey native Carli Lloyd after the game. “This is one of my favorite stadiums to play in, not just because it’s in New Jersey, I think it’s an awesome and intimate feeling.”
Cloud 9, the Sky Blue supporters’ group, as well as the entire stadium was loud and into the game from the moment it kicked off.
“It was nice, it was awesome,” Sky Blue defender Estelle Johnson said. “The fans really showed up for us. As long as we can keep this going, we’ll be happy. They were amazing and we were happy we could put on a great show.”
The game against Reign FC was even more special for Johnson, who was honored for recently reaching the 100 NWSL games played plateau. Teammate and Sky Blue captain Sarah Killion reached the mark on Sunday also.
“It’s pretty cool,” she said. “I keep joking with the rookies that they need to respect us. Sarah hit it as well, Jen hit it as well. It’s nice there is a solid group of us now because it’s a hard thing to reach.
“It doesn’t come easy and it comes with staying healthy and consistently being in the lineup, so it’s definitely something to be respected and I hope the young players reach to achieve it as well.”
One of those rookies, forward Paige Monaghan, had a great week of her own, capping it off with a start at Red Bull Arena. She scored both goals during a Wednesday night tilt to lift Sky Blue past Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in dramatic fashion, which ended Chicago’s five-game winning streak.
For Monaghan, Sunday was all about staying in the moment.
“To have the opportunity to play in Red Bull Arena is amazing,” she said. “I think it’s important to stay present and have a short memory. It was awesome on Wednesday night beating Chicago and being a part of the two goals, but I had to have a short memory to be present for today.”
A team setting an attendance mark has recently been the norm in NWSL. Portland Thorns FC set the overall attendance mark with 25,218 fans in attendance on August 11 at Providence Park in a 2-1 win against the North Carolina Courage. The Red Stars recently set their attendance record with 17,388 watching Chicago also defeat the Courage by a score of 2-1.
It’s a trend that players have certainly noticed.
“It’s surreal,” Monaghan said. “I remember being in Portland where there was a lot of fans and I just stopped for a second and thought how lucky I was to do something I love with all these people. I felt that today. We appreciate it and makes me feel so blessed.”
Reign FC midfielder Allie Long, who grew up in the tri-state area on Long Island, enjoyed what the visiting atmosphere on hand, does for the opposing team.
“More people are showing up, more people are getting behind their teams,” Long said. “It’s creating more of a rivalry going in somewhere and hearing everybody cheer for the other team. It’s been great and we need it to last. We need people to continue to come out, to see the best players in the world.”
Monaghan hoped the display for Sky Blue in the draw could help do just that for her team.
“The attendance is awesome and I hope the game today and point today can give them a show and show them that women’s soccer is really awesome to watch,” she said.
It was certainly an afternoon that many won’t forget and hopefully an indication of what’s to come for Sky Blue and the rest of the NWSL.
“It was a great atmosphere, a broken record, and it goes to show you how far Sky Blue has come and the league, and we just have to keep it going,” Lloyd said.