2018 Preview: Sky Blue FC
Sky Blue FC welcomes several new faces
Raquel Rodriguez scored four goals in 2017. Photo credit: Robyn Walsh McNeil/ isiphotos.com
Raquel Rodriguez scored four goals in 2017. Photo credit: Robyn Walsh McNeil/ isiphotos.com

By Celia Balf

Sky Blue FC will turn to a new and young roster to kick off their 2018 season. Last season the club finished in sixth place, so will look to rebuild this season with a fresh crop of big signings and rookies. Carli Lloyd is back home in New Jersey after being traded from Houston in the offseason. Lloyd will also get to share the homecoming excitement with Sky Blue FC’s new head coach Denise Reddy, who is a New Jersey-native as well.

Sky Blue FC also picked up Savannah McCaskill in the dispersal draft after she went No. 2 overall at the 2018 NWSL College Draft. McCaskill and Lloyd were both named to the U.S. women’s national team SheBelieves Cup roster last month and both saw time in the midfield. McCaskill and Lloyd also each earned votes in the 2018 NWSL GM and Media Surveys. Lloyd was chosen as the top choice to take the game-winning penalty in the NWSL Championship, while McCaskill went No. 2 in Rookie of the Year votes.

Sky Blue FC open up their season on the road against the North Carolina Courage on Saturday, March 31 before hosting Seattle Reign FC on Sunday, April 15.

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Coach: Denise Reddy

Stadium: Yurcak Field

Key Additions

Carli Lloyd

Janine Beckie

Christina Gibbons

Shea Groom

Katie Johnson

Adriana Leon

Savannah McCaskill

Sky Blue FC added three players to their roster from the Boston Breakers’ dispersal draft; forward Savannah McCaskill, forward Adriana Leon, and defender Amanda Frisbie. McCaskill joins Sky Blue after a decorated career at South Carolina, alongside Canadian international Leon who is fresh off her best NWSL season yet, scoring six goals for the Breakers and adding a team best six-assists. Frisbie comes to Sky Blue FC after playing for Perth Glory during the 2017-2018 W-League season in Australia.

Arguably one of the biggest offseason moves sent Carli Lloyd, Canadian international Janine Beckie and forward Jen Hoy to Sky Blue FC. This trade also saw Sky Blue obtain the No. 6 and No. 13 overall picks in the 2018 NWSL College Draft (selected Amandine Pierre-Louis and Casey Murphy), in exchange for Sam Kerr, midfielder Nikki Stanton, and the No. 15 pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft, to the Chicago Red Stars.

In an exchange with Seattle Reign FC in the offseason, Sky Blue FC acquired defender Rebekah Stott and forward Katie Johnson in exchange for Caitlin Foord. Both Stott and Johnson were impressive in their rookie campaigns with Stott proving her stability defensively in Seattle’s backline and Johnson earning four goals and two assists on the year.

Sky Blue FC will also get to profit from the duo of forward Shea Groom and defender Christina Gibbons from Utah Royals FC. In her third NWSL season, Groom had five assists and five goals with FC Kansas City, while Gibbons in her rookie campaign had a team second-best three assists and one goal on the year.

Key Departures

Kelley O’Hara

Sam Kerr

Maya Hayes

Kelley O’Hara will join Utah Royals FC this season after an offseason trade that sent the defender, midfielder Taylor Lytle and the 25th overall pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft to Utah in exchange for Groom, Gibbons and the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft.

Kerr also parts ways with Sky Blue FC and joins the Chicago Red Stars after an offseason three-team trade between Sky Blue FC, Chicago Red Stars and the Houston Dash. Kerr and midfielder Stanton were both included in the trade to Chicago. Kerr had a record-breaking season in New Jersey holding the single-game goal record (4), single-season goal record (17) and going on to win the NWSL Golden Boot and MVP award. Kerr also holds the league’s scoring record (43).

Maya Hayes announced that she will sit out the 2018 NWSL season to undergo graduate studies. Hayes had spent the last four seasons with Sky Blue and was first selected by them in the 2014 NWSL College Draft. In 2017, Hayes scored a team second-best five goals and chipped in four assists.

By the Numbers

2017: 10-11-3, 6th place (Home: 6-4-2; Away: 4-7-1)

42 goals for (3rd in the NWSL), 51 goals against (10th)

Whether Sky Blue FC decides to use Gibbons as a defender or midfielder is up to Reddy, however either way the team is in luck. Gibbons finished fourth on FCKC for her passing accuracy of 74.38% and third on her team for tackles won (35 out of 52 tackles.) Gibbons holds a slightly higher passing accuracy from U.S. women’s national team captain Lloyd who joins Sky Blue with a 70.94% passing rate for the Houston Dash.

Lloyd was third on the Dash for shots on target (10) out of her 28 shots taken.

With the Breakers, Leon had a team-high 38 shots and also dominated her team rankings in shots on target (17) and chances created (38).

Johnson will also be a threat for her new team up top, especially in her ability to find the target. With Seattle the former USC forward held a team second-best in shooting accuracy at 57.89%.

In net, Kailen Sheridan will likely keep her No. 1 role. Sheridan played for Sky Blue in 22 games last season and earned three clean sheets. Sheridan holds a 63.85% save percentage in her 83 total saves.

Head Coach Denise Reddy

Games to Watch

North Carolina Courage vs. Sky Blue FC

Sunday, March 31| go90 | 3:30 p.m. ET

After three competitive preseason games, Sky Blue FC will get to put their new roster on display against a team they went 1-1-1 against last season. Sky Blue lost their first match-up against the Courage, 2-0, however Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan broke the club’s NWSL save record on the day making 11 saves. Sky Blue were able to get the next game back on the road thanks to a late-game finish from Kerr. The last time the two sides met it was a frustrating result for both teams; Sam Kerr didn’t reach her historic 17th goal, and North Carolina couldn’t clinch the NWSL Shield with just one point.

Sky Blue FC vs. Seattle Reign FC

Sunday, April 15 | go90 | 5:00 p.m. ET

Sky Blue FC went to Seattle last year to open up their 2017 campaign, this time Reign FC get to travel to Yurcak Field. If asked to sum up the meetings between Reign FC and Sky Blue FC in 2017 it would be: goals. After the final meeting between the two sides where Sky Blue finished out on top with a 5-4 win, the teams had combined for 18 goals total in their last two matches. Granted there have been a lot of roster shake-ups, but here’s hoping for another game full of goals.

Sky Blue FC vs. Chicago Red Stars

Saturday, July 7 | Lifetime | 3:30 p.m. ET

Sky Blue FC will host a familiar face at Yurcak Field when Sam Kerr and the Red Stars pay a visit in early July. Sky Blue went 0-1-1 against the Red Stars last year.

In Focus March 7: Savannah McCaskill enjoying her time with the USWNT

By Jacqueline Purdy

Harrison, N.J. — Sky Blue FC rookie forward Savannah McCaskill is making the most of the the first few months of 2018 — preparing for her first NWSL season and earning her first senior appearances with the U.S. women’s national team.

After playing 45 minutes vs. France on Sunday in the USWNT’s 1-1 draw with France at Red Bull Arena, McCaskill has three caps. She could earn her fourth on Wednesday night in Orlando, Florida, when the U.S. faces England for the SheBelieves Cup title.

The 21-year-old’s first caps have all been against the top teams in Europe: Denmark (runners-up at the Euro 2017 tournament), Germany (No. 2 in the world, reigning Olympic gold medalists) and France (No. 6 in the world).

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Roster (as of 3/19)

Rostered Players (23 of 20 spots filled)

GOALKEEPERS (2): Caroline CaseyKailen Sheridan (FED-CAN)

DEFENDERS (8): Mandy FreemanAmanda Frisbie (PEN), Christina GibbonsKayla Mills, Amandine Pierre-Louis (INTL-CAN), Domi RichardsonErin Simon (D45), Erica SkroskiRebekah Stott (INTL-NZL)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Daphne Corboz (LOA), Sarah KillionCarli Lloyd (FED-USA), Raquel Rodriguez (INTL-CRC), Thaisa Moreno (INTL-BRA), Madison Tiernan

FORWARDS (8): Michaela Abam, Janine Beckie (FED-CAN), Shea GroomJen HoyKatie JohnsonAdriana Leon (FED-CAN, DD), McKenzie Meehan

Federation Players (FED): 4
International Roster Spots Filled (INTL): 4

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