Sky Blue Shores Up Defense, Signs Benintente

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sky blue logoThe defensive woes that have plagued Sky Blue since midseason have been no secret to fans and opponents.

On Wednesday, the Sky Blue front office made a move to strengthen the backline during the team’s push for the National Women’s Soccer League  playoffs by signing local product Cassidy Benintente.

Benintente, 23, is a native of Jackson, N.J. She is also a graduate of Rutgers University, where she played alongside Sky Blue defender Erica Skroski and midfielder Madison Tiernan. The three were members of a Scarlet Knights side that reached the NCAA College Cup Final Four in 2015, the most successful season in program history.

“Cassidy has been with us since preseason, so she is very well assimilated into the group,” David Hodgson, a Sky Blue FC assistant coach, said. “All of our players trust her, which we feel is very important in order for us to maintain the improving chemistry of our team. Cassidy is capable of playing in several positions, and she is very familiar with our system and style of play. Her ability is what makes her deserving of this pro contract, but we must also commend her incredible resiliency to stick with the team since the beginning of preseason when there were no guarantees that we would arrive at this moment.”

The Sky Blue defense has been riddled by injuries and inexperience all season. When the captain Christie Pearce announced two weeks ago that she would not play the rest of the season, the backline was razor thin. Skroski, only in her second year in the NWSL, was left as the defender with the most experience, anchoring a line of rookies Mandy Freeman and Kayla Mills with Domi Richardson, who has been in the league for three seasons but with only four appearances.

Besides Pearce, Sky Blue has lost Erin Simon for the year. Leah Galton has not played in weeks because of injury. Kelley O’Hara and Raquel Rodriguez have been hampered with leg injuries.

In addition, midfielder Nikki Stanton will sit out after picking up her fifth yellow Saturday against Boston.

Sky Blue (9-9-2, 29 points) travels to FC Kansas City  (6-9-5, 23) Sunday. Sky Blue is in the fifth place, three points behind Chicago and Orlando.