Sky Blue FC 2015 Season Review

SBFC Sky Blue FC

By MC Bousquette

Season Totals:

Record: 5-8-7, 22 points, 8th place

Top Scorer: Sam Kerr (6 goals), Nadia Nadim (6 Goals)
Top Assists: Kelley O’Hara (5 Assists)

In a nutshell…

Sky Blue FC’s season can be split into halves; the first, a disappointing one, the second, a playoff dash that fell just short of success.

Although the return of national team players from the World Cup tremendously helped the squad, it must be said that these players were not Sky Blue’s end-all, be-all this season. The year saw strong showings from non-World Cup players, from striker Nadia Nadim to goalkeeper Brittany Cameron. Sky Blue’s poor record doesn’t belie the narrowness of the losses that defined the first half of the season- the team has significant potential to be one of the strongest sides in the NWSL moving forward.

Two Things that Went Right:

  1. Several non-national team players had break-out seasons. Midfielder Sarah Killion, who will spend the off-season on loan to the Austrlian W-League’s Adelaide United, had a solid first professional season, and looks ready to build on her stellar career at UCLA.  After a rocky first couple of seasons, defender Lindsi Cutshall proved a consistent, valuable member of the Sky Blue back line while the World Cup players were gone, and continued to perform at this high level when they returned. Brittany Cameron had a strong performance during a season that Sky Blue FC Head Coach Jim Gabarra described as one in which she, “became a professional.” One of her peak moments was saving a penalty kick – and her follow-up shot – from none other than Alex Morgan.
Morgan looks back at Cameron after the sequence of shots. (Photo: Colin Keaveney)

Morgan looks back at Cameron after the sequence of shots. (Photo: Colin Keaveney)

2. Sky Blue brought in Sam Kerr. Kerr, who joined the side after playing for Australia in the World Cup, scored six goals in just nine games, recording two assists as well. She immediately combined well with her teammates, with the most notable chemistry between Kelley O’Hara, and fellow Australian WNT member Caitlin Foord. She set the tone for her role on Sky Blue in her first match with the side, scoring the game-winner against her former club, the Western New York Flash.

Kerr seems likely to return to Sky Blue FC in 2016, as per her comments subsequent to Sky Blue FC’s final match. “I spoke to Jim [Gabarra] briefly about this. I would love to be [at Sky Blue FC], whether it works out or not with Olympics— we don’t even know if we’re qualified yet hopefully we do— it’s definitely in my priorities to come back here if the same team’s here.”

Two Things That Went Wrong:

  1. Sky Blue was a zero or one goal team for most of the season. On only a handful of occasions did Sky Blue score more than one goal, and often times, this was not enough to rise above the opponents. This trend was somewhat disrupted by the return of O’Hara and introduction of Kerr to the side, both of whom helped Nadim move far more freely to work her magic. This said, Sky Blue must remove the mentality that one goal is sufficient for victory.
  2. Attendance. Although Sky Blue experienced a post-World Cup bump in attendance, the club saw consistently low attendance numbers compared to other teams. Although Rutgers’ Yurcak Field is a beautifully kept pitch, the central New Jersey location is difficult to access for many, and geographically holds no inherent draw for either Philly or New York fans. This will continue to be an unsolved challenge into 2016 should Sky Blue remain in Piscataway as expected.

EOS Players of the Year: Brittany Cameron & Nadia Nadim

This was a difficult designation to make, especially given the depth of talent on Sky Blue from the USWNT, Canadian WNT, and Australian WNT, but ultimately, the players of the year are two who were present throughout the entire NWSL season.

Brittany Cameron started every game for Sky Blue FC and was a visible and statistical team leader in goal. She recorded a league-high 87 saves this season, with an average of 4.35 saves per game, and her veteran experience was noticeable as she helped govern the Sky Blue back line — even while Christie Rampone and Caitlin Foord were at the World Cup.

Nadia Nadim, a Denmark national team member who missed the World Cup when her team didn’t qualify, made every effort to be the offensive power Sky Blue needed during the absence of the US, Canadian and Australian national team members. She scored six goals throughout the season, even in the period where she was the only focus of the opposition’s defenders, and shone even brighter when set up by the return of the World Cup players. She returns on loan to her Danish club, Fortuna Hjørring, during the NWSL off season.

EOS Match of the Year: Sky Blue FC, Portland Thorns on August 22nd

Between the sellout crowd and the intense, physical battle between both sides, this match is EOS’ favorite of the season. Check out our photo essay of the match here.

Looking Forward:

Despite a disappointing eighth place finish, the 2015 NWSL season is a strong foundation on which to build in the upcoming campaign. Although it is not clear how the 2016 Olympics will impact the presence of international players, Sky Blue moves forward with a deep roster that is accustomed to playing together. Beginning the season with all of its firepower will allow Sky Blue to hit the ground running in 2016, and perhaps live up to the club’s full potential — an aim that was hindered throughout 2015.