NWSL Roundup: Sarah Killion staying with Sky Blue FC

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Sarah Killion Sky Blue FC
PISCATAWAY, NJ — APRIL 30: Sky Blue FC midfielder Sarah Killion (16) during the first half of the National Womens Soccer League game between Sky Blue FC and FC Kansas City on April 30, 2017 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Howell, New Jersey (March 1, 2019) — A new NWSL season is coming up, but Sarah Killion isn’t spending it with a new team. The 26-year-old midfielder has signed a one-year contract with Sky Blue FC.

Given Sky Blue’s recent struggles to keep players in New Jersey, Killion’s return is a big one. She’s the most experienced player within the club on the roster, returning for fifth season. Back in 2015, she was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the NWSL College Draft.

NWSL Roundup: Sarah Killion staying with Sky Blue FC

Since then, Killion has made 82 appearances, scoring 10 goals and providing six assists. Her best season was in 2017, when she led the team with five goals and provided two assists. Last year. Killion led hte team in interceptions (53), tackles (71), passes (1,139) and touches (1,539).

Killion was the only player to appearance in every single regular-season match under head coach Denise Reddy in 2018. However, Killion is not naive in her return to Sky Blue FC. She said that improvements are being made in the organization. Killion said that her four years have brought “its own challenges.”

“I trust that the right steps are being taken for the good of the players and staff,” Killion said. “My teammates are tough, resilient, skilled and extremely hard-working. I know that they show up every day and bring their 100 percent regardless of circumstances or conditions. I feel honored and blessed to sign another contract with Sky Blue and to wear the same jersey as the player next to me. This year is going to have to be a collective effort from the top down, but I am so excited to be a part of what is about to unfold at Sky Blue FC.”

Meanwhile, returning second-year head coach Reddy said that she’s “delighted” to have another opportunity to coach Killion.

“We are very excited to be bringing Sarah back for yet another year with Sky Blue FC,” Reddy said. “She has consistently been one of the top midfielders in the league and is an integral part of this club. She is an incredible leader for us both on and off the field.”

Sky Blue FC will kick off the regular-season with a visit to the Maryland SoccerPlex to face the Washington Spirit on April 13.

North Carolina re-signs five players, including McDonald

Jessica McDonald, Kristen Hamilton, Jaelene Hinkle, Elizabeth Eddy and Debinha are all ready to return for the North Carolina Courage in hopes of going back to the NWSL Championship.

The club announced the re-signing of all five core players this week. McDonald is currently with the U.S. Women’s National Team for the SheBelieves Cup, while Debinha is on the Brazilian roster.

McDonald was named the MVP of the NWSL Championship last year against the Portland Thorns. Meanwhile, McDonald has made 46 appearances for the Courage, since the club’s creation in 2017. She has totaled close to 3,000 minutes and scored 10 goals last season.

“Jess is a true warrior and has provided the club with some tremendous moments the last few years,” Paul Riley, Courage head coach, said. “She knows how to prepare herself and has matured into a much better footballer over recent seasons. Now getting the chance with the USWNT is terrific for her and she thoroughly deserves the opportunity. Size, power, intelligence, and a ton of other great tools have made her one of the premier forwards in the NWSL.”

Meanwhile, Debinha has appeared in 48 matches for the Courage, totaling 3,377 minutes. Debinha scored nine goals last season in 23 regular-season appearances.

“Deb has evolved her game and adjusted her style of play to deal with the NWSL physicality,” Riley said. “She is worth the price of admission and we are very excited to have her back. Her growth over the last two years has been immeasurable and she is cunning, crafty, intelligent, skillful and has dramatically improved her work off the ball. She is a two-way player now and both ourselves and Brazil are reaping the benefits.”

Defense gets bulked up with Hinkle, while offense takes shape

In a FIFA Women’s World Cup year, it’s important to keep pieces that can help lead the team. Veteran presence is a must, with plenty of veterans shipping off to France for the tournament.

For the Courage, it’s likely that McDonald and Debinha will go with their respective squads. So, that makes room for players like Kristen Hamilton and Elizabeth Eddy to secure starting spots for the tournament.

Hamilton made 25 appearances for the Courage last season and has so-far totaled 43 appearances since 2017. Last year, Hamilton scored three goals in the Courage’s regular-season.

“Kristen understands every aspect of our system and is another player who has developed substantially,” Riley said. “Her skill, speed and fabulous ability to run behind back lines makes her a handful for opposing defenses. Great to get such a talented player under contract and my gut is she will be electric this year. Players must love the process of doing their best and she embraces the journey of getting better.”

Meanwhile, Hinkle has been part of the Courage’s defensive system since her addition to the club in 2017. In both 2017 and 2018, Hinkle started 22 matches. Riley called Hinkle the “best left back in the country.”

“She has speed, skill, and is a major attacking threat for our team,” Riley said. She has worked hard to improve her defensive acumen and we believe she has the potential to be the best, most equipped left back in the world.”

Meanwhile, Eddy has made seven appearances under Riley in two seasons with the Courage. However, her minutes have been cut short due to two injuries, which Riley said has made her more driven.

“She has great individual talent and can be a major impact for us this season,” Riley said. “She is a versatile player who understands the game tactically. Liz will be massive for the squad during a World Cup year.”

Houston Dash trade for Christine Nairn

Christine Nairn is going to have a new home in 2019.

After spending the 2018 season with the Orlando Pride, the defender is heading west to Houston, Texas. The Pride traded Nairn to the Dash and in exchange for two NWSL College Draft picks in 2020.

This is Nairn’ third club in three years. In 2017, she spent time with the Seattle Reign FC. Last year, with the Pride, Nairn made 20 appearances, scored one goal and provided four assists.

“On behalf of the entire Orlando Pride organization, I would like to thank Christine for her dedication and contributions to the Pride last year. We wish her the best of luck in Houston,” Pride general manager Erik Ustruck said.

Meanwhile, Nairn’s new head coach in Houston, James Clarkson, expressed his excitement over Nairn joining his roster. This is Clarkson’s first year as an NWSL head coach. Clarkson also hinted at a position change for Nairn.

“Christine Nairn is a fantastic addition to the Dash and is going to play an important role this season, she brings a wealth of experience with more than 100 NWSL appearances and will provide great options in midfield,” Clarkson said.

Houston will begin their regular-season by hosting the Seattle Reign FC at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday, April 14.

Washington Spirit signs Nielsen, waives Church

After a rocky 2018 season, Whitney Church is no longer a member of the Washington Spirit.

The defender has been waived by the club. Last year, Church made 22 regular-season games for the Spirit, totaling 1,898 minutes of action. She finished the season with 103 defensive clearances.

Meanwhile, new Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke — who is undergoing plenty of criticism due to new revelations about his coaching in the past in youth soccer — has signed Paige Nielsen.

Nielsen, a forward, made two appearances for the Seattle Reign FC back in 2016. After her stint in Seattle, she moved on to teams in Cyprus, Australia and South Korea, making 54 competitive appearances. In college, she featured for the University of North Carolina, where she won a National Championship in 2012.

Washington begins the regular-season against Sky Blue FC at home.

 

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