New Sky Blue coach Holly looking to put entertaining product on the field

holly and rampone

by TOM SLATER

Admittedly, it hasn’t been the smoothest of offseasons for Sky Blue FC.

There were retirements from key players being counted on this year. A trade of a popular striker right before the 2015 college draft. Injuries to the captain and to a key striker in Australia.

And just yesterday, one of the toughest defenders in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced that doctors said she needs to step away from the game — for now.

But all that doesn’t seem to faze new Sky Blue FC coach Christy Holly, currently navigating through his first preseason as the head man. He has a goal in mind and he’s keeping his vision of what he wants the Sky Blue team – and organization – to be heading into the 2016 season.

“I think in the past, there hasn’t been a clear idea of the identity of this team,” Holly said before the team’s first preseason match. “That’s my goal and vision is to have a brand that is immediately recognizable – like that of Manchester United. I realize it’s very ambitious and it’s not going to happen overnight. But as long as we have that goal and vision out there, we need to be able to give them the resources they need to achieve their goal.”

Although this is Holly’s first year as a head coach, he’s no stranger to New Jersey women’s soccer, having been around the Garden State game since 1996. He’s been with the Sky Blue FC over the last three years; he’s a former coach of Sky Blue’s reserve team; he’s been an assistant with Georgian Court University’s women’s soccer team. The former Irish professional player has been in New Jersey for 20 years and has been a youth coach for several organizations.

And despite the seeming revolving door out, he know what he wants as he develops his roster this preseason.

‘I am looking for players who want to represent Sky Blue and New Jersey as well as advance their professional career,”  said Holly, who was in charge of player personnel during while the coaching search was being completed. “That’s what we are looking for when we held open tryouts and we found some players who really caught our attention. This league is fortunate that it has many of the top players in the world and we have some of them on our roster. Young players can learn from them.”

While many teams made multiple trades and brought in many players, Sky Blue’s roster seemed in a one-way direction out. That’s changed recently. The team brought back fan favorite and former United States Women’s National Team standout Natasha Kai, who looked impressive in last week’s pre-season opener against St. John’s University.

Caroline Stanley, a backup to Hope Solo in Seattle last year, was signed the first day of pre-season and was the starter against the Red Storm. Maya Hayes and Kim DeCesare, who were injured much of the 2015 season, both saw time and the latter created some dangerous chances in the second half.

Three of the four draft picks played with Leah Galton of Hofstra starting the match. Goalkeeper Caroline Casey and defender Erika Skroski played the second half. The centerpiece draft pick – Penn State midfielder Raquel Rodriguez –will come to camp next week.

With the second preseason match set for 3 p.m. tomorrow against the University of North Carolina at Georgian Court University, Holly will get a chance to further assess his team. His squad dominated both halves last week but could only come up with one goal and that on a penalty kick. Holly used 22 player in the opportunity to take a look at that he’s not so familiar with. Last week, he saw 22 players with two lineups playing for 45 minutes each. It probably won’t happen tomorrow but he will get a chance to look at the newer players. Besides Rodriguez, Australian internationals Caitlin Foord and Sam Kerr have not reported to camp yet.

“I am looking to put together a side that plays an open and attacking style of soccer and players who wear the Sky Blue jersey with pride,” said Holly. “We want people who come to see your games to see this type of games.”

Kai can be that player on and off the field — which can delight fans and annoy coaches at the same time – and there are dynamic players in Christie Rampone, Kelley O’Hara and Kerr. Rodriquez could be the next young rising star in the NWSL.

For Holly, the next step for assembling a roster that fulfills his goals continues tomorrow.


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  • Kevin

    It was cold out there. O’Hara, Rampone fun to watch though


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