Editorial (March 20, 2019) — It’s been a long year for Sky Blue FC.
Sky Blue FC has been the focus of the NWSL for the last few months. This is not due to winning the league or punching a ticket to the playoffs. Instead, Sky Blue FC has made the news for less than positive press.
Sky Blue FC Preview: New roster, new changes, new place on the standings?
After only winning one game last season — and it wast the final game of the regular-season — stories and journals from former players began pouring out about the unprofessional conditions of the club. There were stories of not having a shower for players at the practice facility. In addition, there were horror stories of players dealing with nightmare host families and homes.
During the off-season, calls were proclaimed to have majority owner Philip D. Murphy, who is the current governor of New Jersey, sell the team. Meanwhile, President and General Manager Tony Novo has been asked to re-sign.
Neither have happened, but Novo promised changes.
According to Pro Soccer USA, players have admitted that concerns have been addressed. Living conditions have improved, as players are now housed in newly designed apartments. Rental cars have even been provided at fairly priced rates for players.
With the concerns being raised and changes being made, it seems like a new leaf is turning over at Sky Blue. Players have elected to come back while some rookies that were drafted decided to pursue opportunities abroad — namely Julia Ashley and Hailie Mace heading to Europe.
Last year, Sky Blue finished with a 1-6-17 record. This year, the club is in desperation mode to flip the script with second-year head coach Denise Reddy. Here are three big questions surrounding Sky Blue FC for the 2019 season.
Scenes from this past weekend.
— Sky Blue FC (@SkyBlueFC) March 18, 2019
What kind of defense will Sky Blue have?
Sky Blue FC picked up some veteran players during the off-season. While the NWSL Draft was a huge highlight for the club, there’s a need to have veterans to help those young players out.
Two defensive players were added from the Washington Spirit. This off-season, the New Jersey club traded for Caprice Dydasco and Estelle Johnson. Despite having a record of 2-5-17 last season, Washington’s defense wasn’t terrible. Ever since coming back from her ACL injury in 2017, Dydasco has performed admirably. Johnson, on the other hand, is a longtime professional and knows how to bounce back.
Having two players that know each other well is going to help Sky Blue out.
Jen Hoy is also coming back, as well. After only making four appearances last season, Hoy has a real opportunity to take a starting spot. Meanwhile, in goal, there’s going to be competition between Kailen Sheridan and Didi Haracic, a former Washington Spirit goalkeeper.
— Sky Blue FC (@SkyBlueFC) February 13, 2019
What type of role will Carli Lloyd play?
Let’s face it.
Carli Lloyd is not the same player she used to be. That’s expected, though, as she’s not getting any younger. After the 2015 season and FIFA Women’s World Cup, Lloyd has experienced a drop-off in her performance. In 2016, she remained in Houston. Meanwhile, she split time in 2017 with the Dash and Manchester City.
However, her time in England was short, as she only made six appearances. Coming back to Houston, Lloyd battled injuries and poor performances. Then, she received a trade to Sky Blue, in her native New Jersey.
In 18 appearances, Lloyd scored four goals. However, Lloyd’s arrival was really to revive a struggling team. It also didn’t help that Lloyd didn’t speak out against the ill facilities and housing arrangements. Granted, Lloyd isn’t living with host families, as her popularity and endorsements garner her more money. However, as the most influential player on the team, it would have gained her major leadership points if she spoke up.
However, she chose to stay quiet, only speaking as the changes were being made this off-season.
On the pitch, last year, Denise Reddy made the decision to start Lloyd over Raquel Rodriguez. The Costa Rican international is plenty years younger than Lloyd and his growing her game. It’ll be interesting to see how Reddy uses them together instead of picking one over the other.
If Sky Blue wants to have success, Lloyd’s performances have to step up. However, if they don’t, it’s up to Reddy to put her on the bench, using her as a super substitute like Jill Ellis of the U.S. Women’s National Team has been doing. If Lloyd can’t perform, it’s time for the younger players to get their chance.
Lloyd shouldn’t be a starter just because of historical performances and her name.
Carli Lloyd spent a long time going around Talen Energy Stadium to sign autographs and take selfies with fans.
She’s a hometown hero. Made those kids nights 👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/7judD1dnSg
— Kristen Rodgers (@KristenERodgers) February 28, 2019
Will Savannah McCaskill take the leap?
Last year wasn’t the attention-grabbing year Savannah McCaskill expected to have.
Instead, McCaskill was outshined by her fellow rookie teammate Imani Dorsey. With U.S. Women’s National Team training and appearances under her belt, McCaskill had a lot to live up to with her NWSL play. However, in 20 appearances — with 17 starts — McCaskill only managed to snag three goals. She did manage to garner three assists to her name, too.
However, McCaskill wasn’t consistent.
This past off-season, she decided to help fix those issues. Like many NWSL players, McCaskill headed down to Australia to compete in the W-League. She featured 13 times for Sydney FC, scoring five goals.
She also scored twice in the W-League Grand Final against Perth Glory.
Back in the United States, in the first preseason match against St. John’s University, McCaskill began the match on the bench. She did eventually enter the match at halftime.
McCaskill earned some immeasurable experience down in Australia. It’s going to take plenty of convincing to earn that starting spot back in New Jersey. Julie James and Sarah Killion have been starting together in the attacking midfield early in the preseason. Meanwhile, Jen Hoy has joined Carli Lloyd up top.
McCaskill is going to have to take a huge leap if she wants to be a starter.
Caitlin Foord's cross 👌👌👌
Savannah McCaskill's header 🙌🙌🙌
— Westfield W-League (@WLeague) February 16, 2019
Last Word: Sky Blue FC remains in last
It’s going to be really hard to compete with other teams this year.
Essentially, the North Carolina Courage is bringing back the whole championship roster. The same goes for the Portland Thorns. Meanwhile, Chicago and Seattle have made some additions to help bolster their team. Last year, they made the playoffs in addition to North Carolina and Portland.
Teams that barely missed the playoffs have bolstered their attack, too. Utah signed Spanish midfielder Veronica Boquete, while the Houston Dash added Sophie Schmidt to their midfield.
It’s going to be harder for Sky Blue to keep up, despite some key additions on defense. It’s a shame that Rodriguez doesn’t get adequate playing time anymore, as she’s been a force to be reckoned with. However, other team’s attack might be too much for Sky Blue this year.
Also, not having your top two draft picks doesn’t help.