Sky Blue opens training camp with plenty of questions – and some answers

Holly and Lloyden

by TOM SLATER

Sky Blue FC opened up its preseason camp as it readies for the fourth season of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

There are many questions facing the New Jersey side. There’s a new coach, an interesting crop of draft picks and a charismatic player from the 2009 championship team, along with the traditional names of United States and Australia’s national team players. There’s key missing players through trade – Nadia Nadim – as well as retirement — Katy Freels and Hayley (Haagsma) McCall.

Sky Blue announced its initial preseason roster just prior to opening camp. The team will begin seeking answers as it holds its training sessions at The Atlantic Club in Manasquan.

“This is a very exciting time for Sky Blue FC as we open up camp for the 2016 preseason,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “We have undergone a lot of changes during the offseason, and we have some fresh new faces coming in here with some fresh new ideas.”

Holly touched on what he hopes to accomplish during the preseason from a roster standpoint.

“The objective of our preseason camp is to establish a balanced squad with strong depth,” he continued. “This camp will provide us with the opportunity to evaluate each player and put together the most deserving group for the 2016 season. When assembling our roster, one of the most important aspects for us is to identify the players who will have great pride in wearing the Sky Blue FC jersey and in representing our fans. We are determined in our efforts to assemble a squad that our community will be proud to call its own.”

Here’s what you need to know about preseason:

  • Who’s in goal: it’s finally official — last year’s Most Valuable Player goalkeeper Brittany Cameron is continuing her career in Japan. That leaves a huge void in net. Caroline Casey of William and Mary was drafted and is favored to start. Brittany Anghel of Syracuse was picked up as a free agent. There was some chatter about Caroline Stanley (a backup in Seattle last year) coming east but so far is not listed.
  • The Kids are alright: Sky Blue FC had a great draft with Penn State’s Raquel Rodriguez being the center piece addition with the college draft’s 2nd overall pick. There is no doubt Rodriguez will be an immediate start and by her international play this winter, she will be a fan favorite. But beyond Rodriguez, there is some good talent. Erica Skroski, the hometown girl from Rutgers could be the hidden gem. Skroski’s already making noise on the U23 level. The other draft pick, along with Casey, is English striker Leah Galton out of Hofstra. Collectively, this group could make a difference on the field.
  • Familiar Faces: Once a star for the United States and Sky Blue, Natasha Kai is back with the team. The Hawaiian native has been a social media hit and will certainly bring energy to the team off the field. How much she can bring to the pitch will be a storyline worth watching. She’ll turn 33 in May and hasn’t played since 2012. If she has enough left to come in for instant offense and perhaps mentor Galton, it’ll be worth the gamble.
  • What’s going to happen with Rampone?: Christie Rampone, Sky Blue captain, is technically still in the US National Team pool as she recovers from arthroscopic surgery from December. Whether Jill Ellis picks Rampone for the Olympic rosters is probably a longshot but can’t be ruled out. Look for her to spend an entire season with Sky Blue.
  • The old reliables: Sky Blue FC returns some of its most important playmakers from previous seasons, starting with United States Women’s National Team’s Kelley O’Hara. Australian internationals Caitlin Foord and Sam Kerr are also back for 2016. Additional veterans who return to New Jersey defenders Maya Hayes, Kristin Grubka, Lindsi Cutshall and CoCo Goodson, as well as midfielders Sarah Killion, Taylor Lytle, Nikki Stanton, Theresa Diederich, Shawna Gordon, Kim DeCesare and Rachel Breton.

Fans will get a peak at how this plays on Sunday when its hosts St. John’s University at Wexler Field on the campus of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. Game time is 2 p.m.

Sky Blue will also host the University of North Carolina at Georgian Court University on March 26a at 3 3p.m. There is no admission charge for either pre-season matches.

SKY BLUE FC PRESEASON ROSTER

GOALKEEPERS: Brittany Anghel (Syracuse), Caroline Casey (William and Mary)

DEFENDERS: Lindsi Cutshall (Brigham Young), Caitlin Foord (Australia), CoCo Goodson (UC-Irvine), Kristin Grubka (Florida State), Maya Hayes (Penn State), Meg Morris (North Carolina), Kelley O’Hara (Stanford), Christie Rampone (Monmouth), Erin Simon (Syracuse), Erica Skroski (Rutgers)

MIDFIELDERS: Nicole Baxter (William and Mary), Rachel Breton (Rutgers), Kelly Conheeney (Virginia Tech), Kim DeCesare (Duke), Theresa Diederich (Alabama), Shawna Gordon (Long Beach State), Sarah Killion (UCLA), Taylor Lytle (Texas Tech), Raquel Rodriguez (Penn State), Domi Richardson (Missouri), Nikki Stanton (Fairfield)

FORWARDS: Krystyna Freda (Winthrop), Leah Galton (Hofstra), Kelsey Haycook (La Salle), Tasha Kai (Hawaii), Sam Kerr (Australia), Danielle Schulmann (UConn)