Sky Blue’s Kim DeCesare glad to be healthy and scoring goals

kim-decesare-2015

by TOM SLATER

It was only a preseason game in March, but to Sky Blue’s Kim DeCesare, putting the ball in the back of the net against the University of North Carolina meant a lot.

To the former Duke star, it meant she was clearly on her way back after missing more than half of last season with a knee injury. And after all the rest, rehab and testing of her knee for nine months, a ball hitting the back of the net was a piece of evidence that she has finally recovered.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” she said. “You know I want to score five goals a game but that’s not reality. But getting out there – not even scoring – it feels great. There’s girls on the team who haven’t seen me play much or at all. Getting out there and scoring helped earn that respect back from teammates who haven’t seen me play in a while or who have never seen me play.”

The goal came in the second half of the match against the Tar Heels last weekend and cemented the 2-0 win, the team’s second in two preseason matches. In both games, DeCesare played the final 45 minutes and was a scoring threat in each game.

And while there are still two weeks and change until Sky Blue opens up against Seattle on the road, the Massapequa Park, N.Y., native is cautiously optimistic about her recovery from meniscus surgery last summer.

“I feel like I have completely recovered,” she said. “It took a little longer than I wanted but I felt like I did it the right way. I didn’t try to do things too early. For three months I didn’t play at all or run at all. I wanted to be ready when the season came around and I think I have done a good job.”

DeCesare did a wide variety of activities to get ready for the 2016 season. She trained at Duke, doing some work with the women’s team there and mixed in some 5 v 5 play with members of the North American Soccer League’s (NASL) New York Cosmos and some Red Bulls players. She also did a lot of 1 v 1 work and small group sessions with whomever she could find to play.

“I was a little apprehensive at first, mainly because we were going to turf and I had been rehabbing on grass fields, but so far, it’s been good,” she said.

First-year head coach Christy Holly recognized that DeCesare could offer a lot at striker, especially with the loss of striker Nadia Nadim in the off-season. And he’s been happy with the output so far.

“We are delighted to see Kim come into preseason fully fit and ready to make a positive impact for Sky Blue FC,” said Holly. “It is great to see her get in three straight weeks of training with no issues, which has ultimately allowed her the opportunity to showcase her talent. Kim has needed to be patient at different points; however, I now believe that she is ready to have a very positive year in the NWSL in 2016.”

DeCesare’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) career has been one of fits and starts. She was drafted by Boston in 2014 but appeared in only one match — at centerback. She left the Breakers in July of that year and was picked up by Eskilstuna United DFF of the Damallsvenskan, the top women’s league in Sweden where she played against the likes of Brazil’s Marta.

She went to camp with FC Kansas City in 2015 before coming to Sky Blue before the season started. She appeared in nine matches with Sky Blue before getting injured. She thought she might be back by the end of the season but opted for surgery instead.

Now, fully healthy once more, DeCesare is looking forward an injury-free year and helping Sky Blue get to the playoffs are two years sitting out. And she has a modest goal.

“I haven’t scored in a NWSL game,” she said. “I’ve played in handful of games but haven’t scored.  I want to score a goal. Hopefully it will lead to more, but I’ll start with one goal.”