Sky Blue hoping to keep momentum against visiting FC Kansas City

Bridgeview, IL, USA - Sunday, May 29, 2016: Sky Blue FC defender Erica Skroski (8) during a regular season National Women's Soccer League match between the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC at Toyota Park. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.

By TOM SLATER

Being well-rested and having picked up a little momentum with a big draw on the road with Chicago two weeks ago, Sky Blue FC should be ready for FC Kansas City Saturday night in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) play.

Teams kick off at 7 p.m. at Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field. The NWSL went dark for a week during the FIFA international break when the United States played Japan twice in a pair of friendlies.

Sky Blue FC (2-3-2, 8 pts) is currently four points behind Orlando and Western New York for the fourth and final playoff spot — although the season is only about one-third done.

FC Kansas City, the two-time defending champions have struggled mightily out the gate. They won their first match of the season two weeks ago, beating Orlando, 2-0, at home. But the Blues sit in ninth place (1-4-2, 5 points) and are seven points out of a playoff spot. That’s the furthest they’ve been out of contention this late in the season.

Aside for both teams having the need for three important points, there’s a lot of side stories to be on the lookout for:

  • The battle of the international defenders. Sky Blue has Kelley O’Hara. FCKC has Becky Sauerbrunn. Both are key national team members in the back line. Sauerbrunn came into her own during last year’s World Cup run. O’Hara came off the end of the bench in World Cup and is now a key starter for the Americans. Although they won’t mark each other on a regular basis, O’Hara is known for her ventures into the offense, so there may be moments when they are 1 v 1.
  • Will Leah Galton start? The British international has come off the bench in her first two NWSL matches with an assist in one and a big goal against Chicago. With the Sky Blue offense struggling to find their rhythm, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the recent Hofstra graduate in the starting 11 against the Blues.
  • Set pieces could lead to a high-scoring goals. Both coaches might want to hold their collective breaths on free kicks and corner kicks. Sky Blue FC has given up three goals in set pieces — second most of the league. Two came off corner kicks. FCKC has been a little better near the goal. They’ve given up two set-piece goals and scored on one themselves.
  • Road and home woes: The Blues have lost two straight road games — one short of their club record. They’ve given up a goal in their last nine away matches. However, FC Kansas City has never lost at Yurcak Field, winning three and drawing once. Sky Blue dropped its first two home matches this season before beating last-place Boston on own goal.
  • Welcome back to Jersey: The Blues feature a pair of Jersey girls in Yael Averbuch and US international midfielder Heather O’Reilly. Averbuch is the Blues’ leading scorer with a pair of goals. O’Reilly has always been welcomed at Yurcak, where she is sure to have many family and friends in the stands. She grew up down the road in East Brunswick and everyone — except maybe Jill Ellis — loves her work rate and passion she brings to every game she plays.