Sky Blue FC Meets North Carolina Courage on Saturday Afternoon for 3 p.m. Kickoff
After having a bye last weekend, Sky Blue FC will open its 2018 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) schedule on Saturday, traveling to the North Carolina Courage for a 3 p.m. kickoff in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. The season will be its sixth in the NWSL and ninth professional campaign overall, making Sky Blue FC the only club that has competed in each of the past nine consecutive seasons that professional women’s soccer has existed in the United States.
“Having an extra week of training together has definitely created a good opportunity for us,” said Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach. “It has helped us to find a little bit more gel between the players, whether it has been in the front, the back or together as an 11. At the end of the day, getting out there and playing games is why we do all of the training, so it will be exciting to see where we stand against one of the best teams in the league on Saturday.”
After a busy offseason, Sky Blue FC will have a number of new faces donning its crest this year. The lone returning forward to the team is McKenzie Meehan, who will be joined by Michaela Abam, Janine Beckie, Shea Groom, Jen Hoy, Katie Johnson, Adriana Leon and Savannah McCaskill. Abam arrived at the club via the 2018 NWSL College Draft, while McCaskill came through the 2018 NWSL Dispersal Draft. The remaining group came via a series of trades with other NWSL member clubs, where each player had a big offensive impact in 2017.
Groom finished second on FC Kansas City in 2017 with five goals and a team-leading five assists; Leon was second on the Boston Breakers with five goals and a team-leading six assists; Johnson recorded four goals and two assists (making five starts) for Seattle Reign FC; Hoy registered two goals and two assists over 13 appearances for the Chicago Red Stars; and Beckie scored two goals and an assist for the Houston Dash. Meehan made five starts over 17 games for Sky Blue FC in 2017, tallying an assist.
McCaskill was a two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Year and ranks third at South Carolina with 114 points and 40 goals. Further, her 34 assists are the second-highest mark in school history, while her 17 game-winners are a program-best. She set another record during her junior campaign by scoring 17 goals, which is the highest number at the school in a single season. Abam completed her college career at West Virginia University with 100 points on 42 goals and 16 assists. The 42 goals stand as the third-highest mark in program history, and she led the Mountaineers in points over four consecutive seasons.
The Sky Blue FC midfield returns Sarah Killion, Raquel Rodriguez and Madison Tiernan, and that trio will be joined by U.S. Women’s National Team captain Carli Lloyd and Brazil international Thaisa Moreno.
Killion had five goals and two assists for Sky Blue FC in 2017; Rodriguez followed up her 2016 NWSL Rookie of the Year campaign with four goals; and Tiernan recorded three goals and an assist in her first professional season. Lloyd returns home to New Jersey after the two-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year registered two goals in eight NWSL contests last season for the Houston Dash, while Moreno begins her inaugural NWSL campaign in 2018.
On the back line, Sky Blue FC returns Mandy Freeman, Kayla Mills, Domi Richardson, Erin Simon and Erica Skroski. Joining them this season are Christina Gibbons, Canada international Amandine Pierre-Louis and New Zealand international Rebekah Stott.
Sky Blue FC returns the two goalkeepers who accounted for all 2,160 minutes that were played in net for the club last year, with Canada international Kailen Sheridan and Caroline Casey wearing the team crest once again in 2018.
Sky Blue FC and the Courage met three times during the 2017 NWSL season, with the teams splitting the series at 1-1-1. In their first encounter, North Carolina claimed a 2-0 result despite goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan recording 11 saves. The 11 stops were the most by a Sky Blue FC netminder since the NWSL was founded in 2013. Two months later, these clubs played as the NWSL on Lifetime Game of the Week, with an 84th minute game-winner giving Sky Blue FC the road win, 1-0. The final meeting came in the 2017 Sky Blue FC home finale at Yurcak Field, playing to a 1-1 draw.
Sky Blue FC returns to New Jersey on Sunday, April 15, hosting Seattle Reign FC for a 5:00 p.m. kickoff in its home opener at Yurcak Field. Tickets for that match are available now online or by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849).
2018 Sky Blue FC season, half-season and individual game tickets are all on sale now, and fans can purchase tickets by calling 888-SBFC-TIX (888-723-2849). For all of the latest news on Sky Blue FC, follow us on social media: @SkyBlueFC