Each day leading up to the start of the season, we’ll take a look at what 2017 has in store for two teams.
Wednesday: Seattle Reign FC and Sky Blue FC
Thursday: Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage
Friday: Portland Thorns FC and Orlando Pride
Sky Blue comes into the 2017 season seeking to put an end to a three-year absence from the NWSL Playoffs and will be looking to a large influx of players from the 2017 draft to find their place in the squad alongside a young core that began to establish itself last season. Is this the year the Jersey girls finally get back into postseason contention?
2016 totals (with rank)
Overall record: 7-8-5, 26 pts (tied for 6th place)
Goals for: 24 (tied for 6th)
Goals against: 30 (tied for 8th)
Home record: 3-4-3 (8th)
Away record: 4-4-2 (tied for 4th)
Christie Rampone (20 appearances, 1,800 minutes)
Kelley O’Hara (Goal, 2 assists)
Sam Kerr (5 goals)
Sarah Killion (3 goals, assist)
Raquel Rodriguez (Goal, assist)
Sky Blue brings back a mix of veteran and emerging young talent for the 2017 season – with 41-year-old defender Christie Rampone set to start her fifth year in the league after playing every minute of the 2016 season.
Coach Christy Holly will undoubtedly look to her and versatile U.S. international Kelley O’Hara to provide leadership on a team that also welcomes back 2016 NWSL Rookie of the Year Raquel Rodriguez as well as former No. 2 overall draft pick Sarah Killion and Australia international Sam Kerr.
Kerr returns to the team after scoring five goals in nine matches in 2016 and following that up by notching 10 goals in 11 games with Perth Glory of the Westfield W-League in Australia.
Holly will also want to see another strong campaign from second-year player Leah Galton after the England international had three goals and four assists in 14 appearances last season as well as a robust follow up effort from forward Tasha Kai, who was the club’s No. 2 scorer in 2016 with four goals.
Sky Blue elected to remain quiet on signings during the offseason, choosing instead to focus their attention on the 2017 NWSL College Draft – where they made six selections, tied with the Boston Breakers for the most in that draft.
Round 1, No. 4 overall: Kayla Mills (D, USC)
Round 1, No. 10 overall: Mandy Freeman (D, USC)
Round 3, No. 23 overall: Kailen Sheridan (GK, Clemson)
Round 3, No. 24 overall: Madison Tiernan (F/M Rutgers)
Round 3, No. 30 overall: Catrina Atanda (M, Clemson)
Round 4, No. 34 overall: McKenzie Meehan (F/M Boston College)
Sky Blue looked to the draft to shore up a defense that tied for second worst in the league last year. Thy used their two first-round picks on a pair of defenders from 2016 NCAA champion USC – selecting U-23 internationals Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman with the No. 4 and No. 10 picks, respectively.
Sky Blue opted for Clemson goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan with the No. 23 overall selection and the Canada international could get a real look during her rookie year. Caroline Casey split time with the recently waived Caroline Stanley in 2016.
With the No. 24 overall pick, Sky Blue turned their attention to offense as Rutgers forward Madison Tiernan sparked a run of three consecutive attacking-minded draft choices along with Clemson midfielder Catrina Atanda at No. 30 and Boston College forward McKenzie Meehan at No. 34.