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Sky Blue FC eager for home opener against Seattle Reign

Apr 8, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; U.S. Women's Soccer midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against Mexico National Team in the first half of an international friendly women's soccer match at BBVA Compass Stadium. This was Lloyd's 100th international goal. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Sky Blue FC head coach Denise Reddy has one objective on the attacking side when her team plays its home opener at 5 p.m. EST today against the Seattle Reign – make final-third movements as unpredictable as the New Jersey weather.

Sky Blue opened the 2018 season on the road a week ago with 1-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage. Jessica McDonald’s goal in the 92nd minute handed victory to the home side.

“When you get into stoppage time and lose, it’s crushing,” Reddy said. “We would have been more crushed if we had outplayed them for 90 minutes.”

The possession-oriented method Reddy has delivered produced satisfying moments in the first half against the Courage – but it’s not the finished product.

“Our possession in the first half was extremely good,” Reddy said. “We didn’t have ourselves wasting energy defending.”

However, the inability to create more quality chances leading to the North Carolina goal was a problem that will be addressed in the next step of Sky Blue’s progression.

“When we get into the final third, we always encourage the extra pass,” Reddy said. “It can’t be just the individual one-v-one. It’s too predictable. There has to be balance.”

Reddy has a host of attacking options out of a 4-3-3 shape, including Shea Groom. Reddy said Groom’s “unselfish movements” help create diverse attacking scenarios. Plus, there’s U.S. women’s national team midfielder Carli Lloyd, who recently scored her 100th international goal and helps to set the tempo of the attack.

“Tactically, I’m playing way better soccer than I ever have,” Lloyd told Pro Soccer USA. “With Denise, who’s taken time to learn the style she wants, it couldn’t be a better environment for me. I’m loving it.”

The Reign also commenced their season with a new coach and a 2-1 triumph over the Washington Spirit. USWNT winger Megan Rapinoe had a goal — a bending free kick from just inside 30 yards — and an assist in the victory. 

Vlatko Andonovski, who guided the former FC Kansas City (now the Utah Royals) to NWSL championships in 2014 and 2015, has taken over in Seattle. 

Reddy sounded like she was describing her own team when analyzing Andonovski’s side.

“He wants to keep the ball and build out of the back,” Reddy said. “If there is a mistake in the back that cost them, they won’t change their style.

“They created a lot of chances on the left where Pino is,” Reddy said. “They are good on free kicks, crosses, corner kicks – a very dangerous team. We have to always stay balanced and keep them in front of us.”

Reddy, Lloyd homecoming

Reddy and Lloyd were both all-Americans at Rutgers University, the home venue for Sky Blue.  Lloyd played in her familiar attacking midfield role there from 2001-2004 and is the all-time leading scorer for the Scarlet Knights. Reddy was a central defender and midfielder from 1988-91 and teamed with goalkeeper Saskia Weber, an eventual World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist.

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