Editorial (March 20, 2018) – Carli Lloyd is coming home.
The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year was traded to to Sky Blue FC after a three-way trade with the Chicago Red Stars and Houston Dash.
NWSL Preview: Sky Blue FC Lands Carli Lloyd, but Will It Be Enough?
After two seasons in Houston — and also a couple months with Manchester City Women — Lloyd elected to return to her home state of New Jersey. She requested a trade to be closer to her husband, Brian Hollins.
Houston Dash Head Coach Vera Pauw supported the decision and signed off on the trade.
Lloyd isn’t the only new face for Sky Blue FC.
Amanda Frisbie, Savannah McCaskill, and Adriana Leon joined Sky Blue during the Dispersal Draft, sorting out Boston Breakers players after the club folded. Shea Groom was acquired in a trade with the Utah Royals while Janine Beckie joins after two seasons in Houston.
The head coach position also has a new face, too.
Denise Reddy is a familiar face in New Jersey, as she held the head coach position of the Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues from 2006-08. For the last two seasons Reddy served as Jim Gabarra’s assistant coach for the Washington Spirit.
Last season, Sky Blue FC Head Coach Christy Holly resigned on Aug. 16, 2017. Instead of naming a single interim head coach, Sky Blue announced that assistant coaches Jill Loyden, Dave Hodgson, Paul Greig, and Maria Dorris would take on the role together.
Hodgson returns to the coaching staff, but the others have been replaced by Joe Nemzer and Lubos Ancin.
Player to Watch
While seeing Lloyd in a new element under a new head coach is certainly eye-catching, Costa Rican international Raquel Rodriguez has all eyes on her.
Rodriguez, who has 49 appearances for the Costa Rican Women’s National Team, had a quiet season in 2017. Playing behind former Sky Blue striker Sam Kerr, Rodriguez was still able to tally four goals, but provided no assists.
In the midfield, Rodriguez started 17 matches in her 21 appearances.
Now, Rodriguez will share the field with another star player in Lloyd. However, with the recent form that Lloyd has displayed, Rodriguez could easily be the top midfielder.
Rodriguez will also form a quick partnership with Groom, a talented forward who was the most consistent player for FC Kansas City last season.
Luckily for Rodriguez, many of her teammates in the midfield from last season have returned, including Sarah Killion and Daphne Corboz.
— Sky Blue FC (@SkyBlueFC) March 1, 2018
Thoughts on Head Coach Denise Reddy
Reddy is the new head coach that hasn’t turned everything upside down for her team.
While Vera Pauw shakes up the Houston Dash roster, Reddy has kept Sky Blue’s roster simple. Many fans questioned the decision to trade away Kerr and bring in Lloyd. However, there’s no denying what Lloyd has been able to prove.
Lloyd’s talent hasn’t gone away, but her consistency wasn’t there last season.
Under Reddy, that could change.
Certainly, Reddy is going to find an offense tailored around Lloyd. However, she can’t ignore the young talent also listed on the roster, including Rodriguez, Groom, McCaskill and Jennifer Hoy.
Currently, Reddy has 22 players on her roster and has to trim down to 20. She has eight forwards, six midfielders and eight defenders. Defense is a spot that Sky Blue struggled with last season, so they can’t afford to cut any of their talent on defense.
It looks like Reddy is going to have to chop some forwards.
There is no denying the talent that Sam Kerr possesses.
After scoring a league-high of 17 goals last season, Kerr was traded to the Chicago Red Stars, along with Nikki Stanton.
Both players are talented, but Kerr had a special kind of talent. Despite scoring 17 goals, Sky Blue still didn’t make the postseason — primarily due to defensive struggles.
However, Kerr never slowed down on the offense, even when Sky Blue was officially ruled out of postseason contention.
Another big loss is that of Christie Pearce, formerly Christie Rampone.
Despite her lack of minutes on the pitch, due to injury, Pearce provided a leadership unlike any other player in the league. The 42-year-old defender has been a professional athlete since 1997.
The leadership qualities and coaching expertise she gave young defenders is irreplaceable. While Sky Blue taking on a younger defense is logical and a correct decision, the work that Pearce did since joining the club in 2013 shouldn’t be undermined.
The same situation goes for Natasha Kai.
While she’s only 34-years-old and has only been a professional since 2009, Kai managed to total 67 appearances in three years for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Leadership goes a long way in the NWSL. The two will sorely be missed.
Despite the acquisition of Lloyd and the talent of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, Sky Blue FC will face a hectic learning curve.
However, that curve might last longer than fans realize.
If Lloyd can’t form a consistency like she had in 2015, it’ll be hard for Sky Blue to recover. Reddy isn’t naive and knows that she has a world-class player on her team. She’s going to tailor her roster around Lloyd.
However, if she can’t perform, the payoff will be nonexistent.
I predict that Sky Blue will finish in eighth place, right above the Houston Dash.