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(Photo by Jeff Auger - Double G Media)

(Photo by Jeff Auger – Double G Media) beat writers, Erica Ayala and Paola Garcia Cardenas team up to offer season previews and predictions ahead of the Sky Blue FC game against the Reign at Seattle. Read up on the players to watch, and the newest Jersey Girl additions to the club before in the 2017 season. 

Week One: Seattle Reign vs Sky Blue FC

04.15.17 – Memorial Stadium

Interesting Fact:

Entering its fifth season in the NWSL, Sky Blue FC has never lost on opening weekend.

Scouting Report

Sky Blue FC brings a mix of veterans and rookie players for the 2017 season. With players like Christie Rampone, Kelley O’Hara, Sam Kerr, Daphne Corboz, Raquel Rodriguez and Erica Skroski, SBFC is ready to leave behind the 2016 season and try to position a spot on the 2017 playoffs.

Head coach Christy Holly and his team are very familiar with the Memorial Stadium. They defeated Seattle Reign 2-1, spoiling Seattle’s home opener, and their undefeated home record. Today’s game marks the opening season for both teams, and we’re expecting a very competitive match.

Key Players:

Christie Rampone:  There are rumors that this may be Rampone’s last year as a soccer player. On the field, the young Sky Blue FC players will benefit learning from the veteran, who is one of the most successful women in soccer history. Rampone provides a solid back for the Sky Blue defense, combine with speed and strength. Seattle Reign’s offense will have to fight hard if they want to convert.

Raquel Rodriguez: The 2016 Rookie of the Year is back on Sky Blue’s FC roster. Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez is a smart and strong player in the midfield. We are expecting to see Rocky in action, more confident than last year, taking more shots on goals and providing support for both wing midfielders. When Rocky has the ball, she creates opportunities for the offense.

Kelley O’Hara: As a defender, Kelley O’Hara has always been a fast player that moved the team up the field and kept the momentum going on key opportunities. The 2017 season brings “new” adventures for O’Hara, who will be moving up to be a forward this season. Watch out for the O’Hara-Kerr-Rodriguez trio.

Sam Kerr: The Australian striker is going to be a key player in the offense. Leading the Sky Blue FC team in goals for the past two seasons, we’re predicting a good duo between Kerr and O’Hara, and another year as a leading scorer. Moreover, she is healthy and coming off a successful run with Perth Glory in the W-League.

Local Talent:

Sky Blue tends to sign local talent, and this season is no different. New Jersey natives Rampone (Monmouth), Skroski (Rutgers), Maya Hayes (Penn State) and Erin Simon (Syracuse) return from the 2016 team.

Daphne Corboz (Georgetown) joins the team after two season with Manchester City. The midfielder will add to the attack and hopefully be able to spread the SBFC offense to feed Leah Galton or Kelley O’Hara screaming down the flanks. She also have a nose for the goal herself, she currently holds the program record for most goals (47) for the Hoyas.

Madison Tiernan (Rutgers) is yet another midfielder who can make things happen on offense. In her senior year, she notched 28 points (11g, 6a) for the Scarlet Knights. She is an attacker unafraid to put shots on frame, and has a lot of strength on the ball.

Score Predictions:

Paola: 1-1, goals by: Nairn: Seattle Reign, Kerr: Sky Blue FC

Erica: 3-2 Sky Blue goals by: Matheson, Fishlock: Seattle Reign, Kerr (2), Galton: Sky Blue FC

Season Predictions: 5th place finish

On the season, Sky Blue FC has the talent to make a successful run and find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot. However, the Jersey team will need to be solid on defense, as they were last season, while also finding more goals from their accomplished attack. Chrisy Holly’s team left a lot of points on the table, tying opponents five times last season.

The defense has changed for the club, as Kristin Grubka is noticeably missing from the roster. Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman will need to step-up, much in the way Erica Skroski did last season. It will be interesting to see what Holly does with his keeper spot. Caroline Casey returns after a roller coaster rookie season. She will likely be the number one. Canadian keeper Kailen Sheridan is one to watch for as well.

On offense, SBFC lacks aerial presence with Tasha Kai out. She is recovering from offseason surgery. It will be interesting to see who becomes the target for Sarah Killion off the corner kick. We are eager to see what the speed of Galton, O’Hara and Maya Hayes will produce.

Quickness on the ball, along with strength in the midfield, are the team’s biggest weapons. However, the players will have to come together fast and efficiently to best their 7th place finish from 2016.

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Erica is the Sky Blue FC Beat Writer in addition to providing overall coverage of Women's Sports.
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