Galton’s play has Sky Blue FC making strides toward playoffs

galton

By TOM SLATER

Pressure and expectations can be burdensome no matter what position you play.

But being a goalscorer is added pressure — the margin of failure is so high to begin with. Add in the fact that you’re trying to stay in shape while finishing up the final semester of college. And because you’re a rookie you have to prove yourself on the practice pitch every day. Then, there’s the pressure of maybe being pointed out as maybe being a savior to a team that is having trouble scoring goals.

That’s the crossroads Leah Galton — Sky Blue’s second-round draft pick of Hofstra– was at a little more than a month ago.

So what were coach Christy Holly’s words of wisdom to the English striker before entering the game to start the second half against Western New York Flash on May 21?

“He told me to play like I love it and enjoy myself,” Galton remembered. “He said I had fresh legs to love what I do. And I went out and got an assist. And the next game I played and enjoyed it more. And I scored a goal, so that was even more enjoyable.”

Galton, who has a goal and three assists in five games, has indeed been the spark the Sky Blue needed to reach .500 and head into the second half of the season still alive in the playoff race. But it’s not just the scoring — all though that is important. Galton has brought an aggressive style, a swagger if you will, that has made Sky Blue a tough team to handle lately.

Her assets are many — she had speed; she’s technical; she has vision; and a great shoot to boot. But mostly she makes things happen.

“Leah has come into our club and had a fantastic impact, both on and off the field,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue’s coach. “She is an incredible player with a lot of positive attributes. She has really helped us impact the game in the final third, and we are excited to see her continued development. Off the field, she has a fantastic personality and is very popular among the players. Needless to say, we are delighted to have her with us here in New Jersey.”

Her latest game might have been her best. Galton started at the outside midfield against the Washington Spirit and played a full 90-miutes for the first time this season. She consistently got behind the Spirit defense to send crosses in the box to put pressure on the home team.

She set up Raquel Rodriquez with her first professional goal and then sent a perfect serve from the wing to Aussie Sam Kerr, who volleyed it home for the eventual game-winner.

Galton came to America a little more than four years ago. Her dream was to play in the United States — both collegiately and, she hoped, professionally.

She ended up at Hofstra on Long Island. She wanted to get a degree in sports science but still had her eye on playing pro soccer.

In four years, Galton had accumulated a program-record 122 points and tying for the all-time lead in assists (26), leaving her mark on program history as the second-highest goal-scorer (48).

She was named Colonial Athletic Association player of the year award three straight years. Her senior year was icing on the game — finishing with 12 goals and six assists. She also was a semifinalist for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy, the top individual prize in collegiate soccer.

Her Hofstra team made it to the NCAA tournament twice in her career with her last match being a 2-0 loss to Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field — also the Sky Blue’s home field.

In January, she was one of 40 players selected in the NWSL college draft in Baltimore. After the excitement wore off (“I Skyped with my parents in England to tell them the news.”), it was back to school to finish up her classwork for graduation.

She kept in shape during that time as she watched Sky Blue struggle on the field — especially at putting the ball in the net.

“I had to work hard and get game-fit because I really hadn’t played a match since November,” she said. “I worked hard to get game-fit. The first match, I played 45 minutes and it felt like 4 hours. It’s been getting better as I get into shape.”

The full 90 performance with two crucial assists helped Sky Blue FC even its record at 3-3-4 midway through the NWSL season. Many teams will go the next month or two without their international players as the Rio Olympics get closer.  The United States internationals are already gone. Canada and Australian national team player won’t be far behind.

Sky Blue won’t be impacted as much as other squads. They will lose Kelley O’Hara for the next 5-6 weeks. And if the United States goes deep in the Olympics as expected, it could be longer.

They’ll also lose Rodriguez when Costa Rica plays the US team in the send-off match. Kerr could be called to the Australian camp. Other than that Sky Blue will be intact.

And with Galton help providing the swagger, Sky Blue could keep climbing up the table toward a playoff berth.