Short-Handed Sky Blue Faces Winless Spirit

Sam Kerr will be back in the lineup for Sky Blue

By TOM SLATER

imagesizecacheurlSky Blue are road warriors in the National Women’s Soccer League’s.

Five of the club’s first seven games are outside New Jersey. Next stop: The SoccerPlex in Maryland to face the Washington Spirit on Saturday night.

Sky Blue (1-1-1, 4 points) goes south looking for its second straight win after last weekend’s 1-0 victory over visiting FC Kansas City in Sky Blue’s home opener. The Spirit (0-2-1, 1) has lost two straight.

“Yeah, the schedule-makers didn’t do us any favors,” Sky Blue Coach Christy Holly said. “Being on the road this much isn’t easy and you want to settle in a pattern of play. But we’re looking forward to build on the win.”

As they were last week, Sky Blue will be short-handed. The captain Christie Pearce will sit out her second straight game while recovering from a concussion, presumably sustained in the loss against Boston two weeks ago. She has been training, but is under the league’s concussion protocol and will not play.

Sky Blue will also be missing midfielders Raquel Rodriguez and Daphne Corboz. Rodriguez will be at Penn State to receive her bachelor’s degree; Corboz will in England finishing her medical exams.

But Sam Kerr, who missed last weekend’s game to be in Australia, is back. Kerr, who plays for Perth Glory in the Australian W-League, picked up the Julie Dolan Award, presented to that league’s most valuable player.

Also returning is Leah Galton, who was nursing an ankle injury and played only 25 minutes last Sunday. She is expected to start against the Spirit.

Sky Blue won’t get sympathy from the Spirit, which is without Ali Krieger (now with Orlando) and Crystal Dunn (playing in England) from last year’s finalist. In addition, three players tore knee ligaments during preseason, and Joanne Lohmann also sustained a knee injury in the season opener against North Carolina.

Washington has lost a pair of 1-0 decisions, to North Carolina and Houston, sandwiched around a 1-1 draw with the Orlando Pride.

“They have [goalkeeper Stephanie] Labbe, and defenders Estelle Johnson and Kasey Kallman, so they’re going to be stingy on defense,” Holly said. “They’re not the same team as last year but no team is an automatic win.”

Despite coming out in a possession-type game thus far, Sky Blue is looking to break out of a scoring slump. With only one goal in the run of play — coming from Rodriguez against K.C. — Sky Blue needs to get that final touch.

‘You want to play possession but you want to have a point to it,” Holly said. “We want to develop a maturity and a calmness when we get into the box. When that happens the goals will come.”

Holly will again go with Erin Simon at outside back and slide Erica Skroski inside to replace Pearce. Simon, who started 18 games last season, was effective in defense and making runs forward.

Replacing Rodriguez will be more difficult. Maya Hayes, who started in place of Kerr against FC Kansas City, could start again up top, with Kelley O’Hara sliding back to midfield. O’Hara wore the captain’s band in Pearce’s absence.