Sky Blue FC
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Sky Blue FC

Sky Blue FC
Sky Blue FC logo.svg
Full nameSky Blue FC
Nickname(s)The Beez
Founded2007; 14 years ago (2007)
StadiumRed Bull Arena
Harrison, New Jersey
Capacity25,000
OwnersPhil and Tammy Murphy
Steven H. Temares
Ed Nalbandian
General managerAlyse LaHue
Head coachFreya Coombe
LeagueNational Women's Soccer League
2020Regular season: Canceled
NWSL Challenge Cup: Semi-finals
Fall Series: 4th of 9
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Sky Blue FC is a professional soccer team based in Harrison, New Jersey, which has participated in the National Women's Soccer League since 2013. From 2009 to 2011, the team played in Women's Professional Soccer (WPS).

Sky Blue FC is part of the larger Sky Blue Soccer organization, based in Somerset County, New Jersey, an integrated program that allows players to progress in soccer from a young age with an opportunity for long-term growth.

History

Establishment, 2008

Sky Blue FC named Ian Sawyers as its first head coach and general manager on March 5, 2008. However, it was not until September 9, 2008 that the New York/New Jersey outfit was officially unveiled under the name Sky Blue FC. One week later, the US Women's National Team allocation took place with Heather O'Reilly, Natasha Kai, and Christie Pearce allocated to Sky Blue FC.[1]

On September 24, the 2008 WPS International Draft was held. Sky Blue FC drafted Australian National Team forward Sarah Walsh in the first round, Brazilian National Team members Rosana and Ester in the second and third rounds respectively, finished with Canadian National Team midfielder Kelly Parker in the fourth round.[2] In addition to these picks, Sky Blue FC also named Australian National Team midfielder Collette McCallum and England National Team defender Anita Asante as post-draft discovery players on September 26, 2008 and October 2, 2008 respectively, and were awarded their WPS playing rights.

To further assign player rights, on October 6 the 2008 WPS General Draft took place. Sky Blue FC drafted Cori Alexander, Keeley Dowling, Kacey White, and Jenny Hammond.[3] Ian Sawyers closed out 2008 by choosing Kelly Lindsey to be his assistant coach on December 3.

The new year brought new players. On January 16, the 2009 WPS Draft was held. Sky Blue FC drafted Yael Averbuch, Meghan Schnur, Karen Bardsley, Christie Shaner, Julianne Sitch, Jen Buczkowski, Zhang Ouying, Mary Therese McDonnell, Mele French, and Fanta Cooper.[4]

As of 2018, Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy was a majority shareholder of the team.[5]

2009-2011: Women's Professional Soccer

Unlikely champions, 2009

Sky Blue FC kicked off its inaugural season on April 5, 2009 dropping a 2-0 decision to Los Angeles Sol at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey. It played its next game at the venue before moving permanently to Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University.

Sky Blue FC battle in St. Louis during the 2009 postseason

The team stuttered to one win and two draws in their first six games, scoring only 3 goals in the process, before head coach and general manager Ian Sawyers was suspended indefinitely by the team for disagreements on May 23, 2009. He was eventually relieved of his duties as head coach and general manager on May 28, 2009. In his absence, Kelly Lindsey stepped in as the interim and slowly started to turn around Sky Blue FC's on-field fortunes. She was eventually permanently installed as head coach on June 19, 2009 by then General Manager Gerry Marrone.

Lindsey's time at the helm was short-lived as she abruptly resigned from her position on July 30, 2009. She had won five games and drawn three others in her twelve total matches before Christie Pearce was named the second interim of the year and third head coach overall by Marrone. Her position also included playing on the field and was the first player/manager in WPS history. Rampone lead Sky Blue FC into 4th position and secured the final playoff spot for the 2009 playoffs. Sky Blue FC upended both Washington Freedom and Saint Louis Athletica to make the championship game against Los Angeles Sol. A 16th minute Heather O'Reilly strike earned Sky Blue FC the championship on August 22, 2009, beating the Sol on their own home field of The Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

President Obama welcomed Sky Blue to the White House following their championship season.

Sky Blue's victory was seen as an upset,[6] and later described as "an all-time underdog story."[7] Sky Blue were later invited to the White House, where President Barack Obama hailed their success in the inaugural WPS season.[8]

Down to Earth, 2010-2011

With two additional teams, Atlanta Beat and Philadelphia Independence, joining the league for 2010, Sky Blue FC were destined to lose players from their championship-winning side. On September 15, the 2009 WPS Expansion Draft was held with Jen Buczkowski moving to Philadelphia and Noelle Keselica headed to Atlanta.

Sky Blue FC announced on September 29, 2009 that former Finnish National Team player Pauliina Miettinen would be head coach of the team for the 2010 season after completing her coaching duties with PK-35 Vantaa.

Sky Blue FC started its title defense on April 11, 2010 when it hosted the Chicago Red Stars at Yurcak Field. The team wasted little time in gaining its first goal on the young season, with forward Tasha Kai scoring on a fourth-minute strike to lead her team to an eventual 1-0 victory. Sky Blue FC found itself having some trouble tallying goals as the season progressed and held a 5-6-3 record when head coach Pauliina Miettinen was relieved of her duties. Immediately replacing her was assistant coach Rick Stainton, who led the team to a 2-4-4 record the rest of the way. After settling for three draws to conclude its sophomore campaign, Sky Blue FC finished the year in fifth place in the regular season standings and just missed the postseason.

The 2011 season marked the first at the helm by decorated women's soccer coach Jim Gabarra, who had spent the past decade with the Washington Freedom. Prior to the start of the regular season, Sky Blue FC headed to Turkey for the preseason, playing to the finals of the Alanya International Women's Tournament of Champions, where it fell to team partner LdB FC Malmö, 1-0. Also participating in the tournament were Russian side FK Energiya and Danish club Fortuna Hjørring (who Sky Blue FC defeated in a penalty shootout in the semifinals).

Sky Blue FC kicked off the WPS regular season on April 10, 2011 at Yurcak Field, playing the Philadelphia Independence to a 2-2 draw. The team then hit the road for three games, suffering three consecutive defeats, before returning home for a pair of wins. After two more draws and another victory, Sky Blue FC found itself amid the longest unbeaten streak in franchise history (five matches). The team kicked off that streak on May 21, 2011 with a 3-0 win over the Atlanta Beat, its then-largest margin of victory.

The club went 1-2 in its next three games before entering the final four matches of the regular season. After suffering defeats in each of those games, Sky Blue FC came up just short of the playoffs after finishing even with the Boston Breakers for the final postseason spot (Boston took the season tiebreaker).

After the WPS announced the suspension of the 2012 season, Sky Blue FC announced a partnership with the New Jersey Wildcats of the W-League, which included sharing coaching staff.[]

2013-present: National Women's Soccer League

Jim Gabarra era (2013-2015)

In November 2012, it was announced that Sky Blue FC would be one of eight teams in a new women's professional soccer league sponsored by the United States Soccer Federation, the Canadian Soccer Association and the Mexican Football Federation.[9] The league, known as the National Women's Soccer League, began play in spring 2013.

Sky Blue FC's lineup before a game against the Washington Spirit during the 2013 season.

For the 2013 season, Sky Blue were allocated seven players from North American federations, including Kelley O'Hara, Jillian Loyden, Christie Rampone, and Sophie Schmidt.[10] On May 19, the club recorded their third consecutive victory and their fifth overall, marking the club's best-ever start to a season.[11] On June 1, 2013, the team extended their run of consecutive victories to five with a 5-1 win over the Boston Breakers at Yurcak Field. In so doing, Sky Blue became the first team to score five goals in a single match in the nascent National Women's Soccer League.[12] The team's form later slumped in the second half of the regular season, though Sky Blue ultimately finished in 4th place, earning a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.[13] Sky Blue were later eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, suffering a 2-0 defeat to the Western New York Flash.

The following season, Sky Blue failed to win any of their opening four matches.[14] After defeating the Boston Breakers on May 3, Sky Blue again went on a winless streak until June 25, when they secured a 2-1 victory over the Portland Thorns.[15] The 2014 season ended with a five-game win streak,[16] though this proved insufficient to overcome earlier poor form and Sky Blue finished the season in 6th place, failing to qualify for the playoffs.

The 2015 season was similarly marred by poor form. After winning their opening match of the season, Sky Blue went on a winless streak until July 11. The game marked the debut for Australian international Sam Kerr, who scored the winning goal.[17] Sky Blue ultimately finished the season in 8th place, having won only five games out of 20, and once more failing to qualify for the playoffs.

Following the 2015 season, head coach Jim Gabarra reached an agreement with Sky Blue to be released from his contract, having agreed terms to join the Washington Spirit.[18] Gabarra's assistant, Christy Holly, was later named his successor for the 2016 season.[19]

Christy Holly era (2016-2017)

Sky Blue FC opened its 2016 season at Seattle Reign in thrilling fashion on Sunday, April 17, 2016, winning 2-1 and handing two-time defending NWSL Shield winner its first-ever home loss at Memorial Stadium. The Reign were unbeaten at Memorial Stadium over the previous two seasons[20] Sky Blue FC started six players who had never logged a single NWSL minute before that night.[21] By the end of the season they had racked up with 26 points in 7th place. Playing twenty games this season, they ended up with seven wins, eight losses, and five draws. They scored 24 goals and had 30 against them.[22] Sky Blue midfielder Raquel Rodríguez was named 2016 NWSL Rookie of the Year.[23]

After beginning with a 1-1 draw against Seattle Reign, the 2017 season got off to an uneven start. Sky Blue recorded alternating wins and losses in their next four games. Over the opening 18 matches of the season, Sky Blue recorded only two draws, compared to 7 wins and 9 defeats. Despite these results, Sky Blue were in 3rd place as late as July 15. Ultimately, in 2017, Sky Blue had its most successful season since 2014. They finished in sixth place, but were in playoff contention until mid September.[24] Despite these successes, head coach Christy Holly unexpectedly stepped down as coach on August 16, 2017.[25]

Instability and rebuilding (2017-2019)

Holly's departure was followed by veteran defender Christie Pearce announcing she would miss the remainder of the season due to injury on August 18.[26] Following Holly's abrupt departure, assistant manager Dave Hodgson was appointed interim head coach.[27]

On August 19, 2017 Sky Blue overcame a 3-0 deficit, to defeat the Seattle Reign 5-4. In that game Sam Kerr became the first player in NWSL history to score 4 goals in one game.[28] Kerr enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, she broke the single season goal scoring record by scoring 17 goals and won the golden boot. Kerr was also awarded the 2017 NWSL MVP award.[29]

Denise Reddy was appointed as the new head coach on November 15, 2017.[30] Sky Blue began the off-season by trading several of their key players. They dealt Taylor Lytle and USWNT defender Kelley O'Hara to the Utah Royals on December 29, 2017.[31] Then at the 2018 NWSL College Draft they traded Nikki Stanton and 2017 NWSL MVP Sam Kerr to the Chicago Red Stars.[32] Sky Blue received forward Katie Johnson and defender Rebekah Stott from the Seattle Reign in exchange for the rights to forward Caitlin Foord.[33] They also added two-time FIFA Player of the year Carli Lloyd in the trade for Sam Kerr.[32]

The results of the field were not good for Sky Blue as they finished in last place with a record of 1-17-6. They broke the NWSL record for the longest winless streak (23 games) as they didn't earn a victory until the final game of the season.[34] Their season was plagued with reports of poor off-field conditions, such an inadequate training facilities as well as housing, travel, and transportation issues.[35] These off-field issues, coupled with Sky Blue's poor results, led to the club being described as "falling apart, on the field and off".[36] The club's training facilities also reportedly lacked running water.[37]

The 2018 season did include promising rookie seasons from Imani Dorsey and Savannah McCaskill. Dorsey scored 4 goals in 13 games and McCaskill had 3 goals and 3 assists.[38] Both players were voted as finalists for the 2018 NWSL Rookie of the year. Dorsey won the award, becoming the second Sky Blue player to win the award after Raquel Rodríguez won it in 2016.[39]

Following the disappointments of the preceding two seasons, the 2019 season got off to a poor start. Before the season even began, Hailie Mace and Julia Ashley declined to sign for the club despite being drafted, citing the team's mismanagement.[40] Sky Blue then failed to win any of their opening nine matches, drawing two and losing seven. Head coach Denise Reddy was subsequently relieved of her duties. At the time of her dismissal, Reddy had won only one of thirty-three matches in charge of the club.[41] Goalkeeping coach Hugo Macedo was named interim head coach following Reddy's dismissal. In his first game in charge, Macedo guided Sky Blue to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars, their first victory in an away game since September 2017.[42] Under Macedo, Sky Blue amassed a 4-2-4 record. However, on September 4, Macedo returned to his previous role of goalkeeping coach and was replaced as interim head coach by Freya Coombe.[43] Under Coombe, Sky Blue went on to win only one of their final five games of the season. Having had three head coaches in a single season for the second time, Sky Blue finished the 2019 season with a record of 5 wins, 5 draws, and 14 defeats. This saw them finish 8th in the table, ahead of only the Orlando Pride, and failing to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

Off the field, in February co-owner and First Lady of New Jersey Tammy Murphy announced she would be taking an "active role" in the club.[44] In the same statement, Murphy announced that the club had taken steps to improve player housing, as well as relocating its administrative offices, and expanding the size of the club's staff.[44] Murphy also committed to improving Sky Blue's training facilities.[44] Longtime president and General Manager Tony Novo resigned in April, with reports alleging that Novo was forced out of the club.[45] Alyse LaHue, formerly General Manager of the Chicago Red Stars, was named interim GM following Novo's resignation. LaHue was later made permanent General Manager on September 3.[46]

In November 2019, Sky Blue announced that they had reached an agreement with Major League Soccer club the New York Red Bulls to play their home matches for the following season at Red Bull Arena.[47] In December, Freya Coombe's appointment as head coach was made permanent.[48]

A fresh start, 2020

Following their previous announcement of a groundshare arrangement, in February 2020 Sky Blue announced that they had agreed a deal to share training facilities with the New York Red Bulls.[49] That same month, Ed Nalbandian joined the club as minority owner and was appointed Vice Chair.[50] Heading into the 2020 season, Sky Blue's off field developments over the preceding year were perceived as having turned around the club's culture.[51][52] The club also took steps to overhaul their roster, bringing in thirteen new players,[52] such as Mallory Pugh, McCall Zerboni, and Margaret Purce, for what was described as a "new-look Sky Blue."[53] These changes led to a belief that the club "was set to make leaps and bounds" and would "compete for playoff spots in due time."[54] The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic halted the new season's momentum before it could even begin, however. On March 12, the team's originally scheduled preseason was cancelled.[55] The start date of the 2020 NWSL season was also pushed back before being cancelled altogether and replaced by the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup.[56]

Veteran defender Caprice Dydasco, new arrival Pugh, and star midfielder Carli Lloyd were ruled out of the Challenge Cup through injury.[57] Midfielder Madison Tiernan also picked up an injury shortly before the start of the tournament.[58] These absences, coupled with the extensive changes that had been made to the club in a short space of time, led to Sky Blue entering the Challenge Cup as "the true underdog".[59] The truncated season was seen as pushing back the club's growth,[54] while at the same time the tournament was perceived as "more of a development opportunity."[52] Heading into the tournament, the team were perceived as least likely to reach the final.[60][59]

Following a 0-0 draw with the OL Reign in their opening game of the tournament and a 1-0 defeat to Utah Royals, Sky Blue recorded a 2-0 win over the Houston Dash, which saw them rise to 2nd in the table.[61] A subsequent 2-0 defeat to the North Carolina Courage saw them slump to 7th, and Sky Blue were pitted against 2nd place Washington Spirit in the quarter-final. The Spirit were perceived as the favorite for the match,[62] though Sky Blue ultimately advanced after winning 4-3 on penalties.[63] In the semi-final, Sky Blue were pitted against the Chicago Red Stars, who had finished as runners-up in the 2019 NWSL Championship. After conceding three goals in the opening 60 minutes, Sky Blue rallied courtesy of a late goal from Evelyne Viens and an effort by Purce which forced an own goal by Julie Ertz. However, Sky Blue were unable to overcome the deficit and the club were eliminated in a 3-2 defeat.[64] Despite these results, goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament by the media, being awarded the Golden Glove.[65]The Philadelphia Inquirer also wrote that Sky Blue's performance in the tournament "shows big potential for the future," and that "if general manager Alyse LaHue can keep her team's spine together, Sky Blue will enter 2021 with real potential to end its playoff drought."[66]

Following the conclusion of the Challenge Cup, the NWSL announced the continuation of the season with the NWSL Fall Series. Per the rules of the series, Sky Blue were drawn into a three-team regional pod with the Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars. Sky Blue opened the Fall Series with a 2-1 victory over the Washington Spirit at Segra Field on September 5,[67] though this was followed by a heavy 4-1 defeat to the Chicago Red Stars.[68] Sky Blue then suffered a 1-0 defeat to the Washington Spirit in their first home game of the season,[69] before closing out the Fall Series with a 3-1 victory at home over Chicago.[70] These results ultimately saw Sky Blue finish the Fall Series in fourth place, just one point behind the third-placed Washington Spirit.

Year-by-year

Year League Regular Season Playoffs Challenge Cup Avg. Attendance
2009 WPS 4th Place Champions -- 3,651
2010 WPS 5th Place Did not qualify -- 3,320
2011 WPS 5th Place Did not qualify -- 2,033
2013 NWSL 4th Place Semi-Finals -- 1,664
2014 NWSL 6th Place Did not qualify -- 1,640
2015 NWSL 8th Place Did not qualify -- 2,189
2016 NWSL 7th Place Did not qualify -- 2,162
2017 NWSL 6th Place Did not qualify -- 2,613
2018 NWSL 9th Place Did not qualify -- 2,532
2019 NWSL 8th Place Did not qualify -- 3,338
2020 NWSL 4th Place[a] -- Semi-finals 0[b]
2021 NWSL
  1. ^ Results of the 2020 NWSL Fall Series.
  2. ^ Season played behind closed doors owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players and staff

Current roster

As of January 14, 2021.[71]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

Out on loan

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
20 FW Canada CAN Evelyne Viens (at Paris FC until February 28, 2021)

Club officials

As of June 23, 2020[72][73][74]
Executive Staff
Position Staff
Owner United States Phil Murphy
Owner and Club Chair United States Tammy Murphy
Owner United States Steven Temares
Owner and Vice Chair United States Ed Nalbandian
General Manager United States Alyse LaHue
Chief Financial Officer United States Mary Smoot
Coaching Staff
Position Staff
Head Coach England Freya Coombe
Assistant Coach United States Rebecca Moros
Assistant Coach England Becki Tweed
Goalkeeper Coach Wales Dean O'Leary
High Performance Coach United States Philip Congleton
Technical Advisor United States Marcia McDermott
Head Physio United States Joelle Muro

Records

As of the 2020 season. Statistics from competitive matches (regular season, playoffs, and domestic cup) only.[75][76]Current players in bold.

Most appearances

Players with most appearances for Sky Blue FC
Rank Player Years League[a] Cup Total
1 Christie Pearce 2009-2010
2013-2017
117 0 117
2 Sarah Woldmoe 2015-2020 106 10 116
3 Erica Skroski 2016- 85 9 94
4 Taylor Lytle 2013-2017 82 0 82
5 Raquel Rodríguez 2016-2019 76 0 76
6 Kelley O'Hara 2013-2017 75 0 75
7 Maya Hayes 2014-2017 74 0 74
Kailen Sheridan 2017- 64 10 74
9 Katy Freels 2013-2015 65 0 65
10 Natasha Kai 2009-2010
2016-2017
58 0 58
  1. ^ includes WPS & NWSL, regular season and playoffs.

Top goalscorers

Matches played appear in brackets.

Top goalscorers for Sky Blue FC
Rank Player Years Goals
1 Sam Kerr 2015-2017 28 (40)
2 Natasha Kai 2009-2010
2016-2017
15 (58)
Kelley O'Hara 2013-2017 15 (75)
4 Nadia Nadim 2014-2015 13 (24)
5 Carli Lloyd 2010
2018-
12 (37)
6 Mónica Ocampo 2013-2015 11 (35)
Sarah Woldmoe 2015-2020 11 (116)
8 Maya Hayes 2014-2017 9 (74)
9 Rosana 2009-2010 8 (41)
Sophie Schmidt 2013-2014 8 (41)
Raquel Rodríguez 2016-2019 8 (76)
12 Laura Österberg Kalmari 2010-2011 7 (33)
13 Katy Freels 2013-2015 6 (65)
Imani Dorsey 2018- 6 (40)
15 Casey Loyd 2011 5 (18)
Lisa De Vanna 2013 5 (16)
Taylor Lytle 2013-2017 5 (82)
Leah Galton 2016-2017 5 (30)
Paige Monaghan 2019- 5 (33)
Top scorers by season

Club captains

Period Name
2009-2010 United States Christie Pearce
2011 United States Brittany Kolmel
2013-2017 United States Christie Pearce
2018 United States Carli Lloyd
2019-2020 United States Sarah Woldmoe

Supporters

Cloud 9 is the official supporters group of Sky Blue FC.[77] They stand in Section 9 of Yurcak Field for home games, and travel to road games, singing songs and chants throughout the game.

Broadcasting

As of April 2017, Sky Blue FC games are streamed exclusively by Go90 for American audiences and via the NWSL website for international viewers.[78] For the 2017 season, the team will be featured in the nationally televised Lifetime NWSL Game of the Week broadcasts on May 13, May 20, July 1, and August 12, 2017.[79]

Previous seasons' matches were streamed live on YouTube, available around the world. The announcers were Corey Cohen on play-by-play and Dan Lauletta on color commentary with Evan Davis hosting the halftime show and NJ Discover handling production.[80]

Head coaches

As of October 10, 2020

Only competitive matches[a] are counted. Wins, losses, and draws are results at the final whistle; the results of penalty shootouts are not counted.

Name Nationality From Until Record Honors
P W D L GF GA GD Win %
Ian Sawyers England March 5, 2008 May 23, 2009 6 1 2 3 3 5 -2 016.67
Kelly Lindsey[81] United States May 23, 2009 July 29, 2009 12 5 3 4 13 12 +1 041.67
Christie Pearce[82] United States July 30, 2009 September 29, 2009 5 4 0 1 6 4 +2 080.00 WPS Champions
Pauliina Miettinen[83] Finland September 29, 2009 July 19, 2010 14 5 3 6 12 16 -4 035.71
Rick Stainton[84] United States July 19, 2010 October 7, 2010 10 2 4 4 8 15 -7 020.00
Jim Gabarra[85] United States October 7, 2010 October 14, 2015 84 29 29 26 68 87 -19 034.52
Christy Holly[86] Northern Ireland January 13, 2016 August 16, 2017 38 14 7 17 53 67 -14 036.84
Dave Hodgson (interim) England August 16, 2017 November 15, 2017 6 3 1 2 13 14 -1 050.00
Denise Reddy[87] United States November 15, 2017 June 28, 2019[88] 33 1 8 24 27 66 -39 003.03
Hugo Macedo (interim) Brazil June 28, 2019 September 4, 2019 10 4 2 4 10 13 -3 040.00
Freya Coombe[89] England September 4, 2019 present 15 4 3 8 15 22 -7 026.67
  1. ^ Includes regular season, playoffs, and domestic cups

Stadiums

Honors

See also

References

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  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 3, 2012. Retrieved 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ https://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2018/07/murphy_orders_that_players_on_the_pro_soccer_club_he_owns_be_treated_like_pros.html
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