PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Sky Blue FC picked up its third win of the season, and its second against the Chicago Red Stars, on Wednesday, beating the visitors 2-1 thanks to a brace from rookie Paige Monaghan. Here are three takeaways from the win at Yurcak Field:
Monaghan makes an impact
In addition to enjoying another victory, Sky Blue had a separate reason to celebrate: Paige Monaghan scored her first two professional goals. The accomplishment was a long time coming for the second-round draft pick from Butler University.
“She had a great day and she deserved that goal,” goalkeeper coach and interim head coach Hugo Macedo said following the match. “She’s been deserving a goal for the past four or five games and she finally did, two goals in a row. It’s awesome.”
Monaghan has moved around the pitch this season, lining up as both a fullback and a forward, where she played in college and against the Red Stars. Throughout her rookie season, the player has been a good sport about it. “Any way I can contribute to the team, I’m happy,” she said post-match. Macedo has mostly played Monaghan as a forward and said she will stay at the position.
Monaghan’s first two professional goals were both impressive shots from an angle and some distance, capping off a successful match for the rookie. Her second goal was particularly notable considering the team had conceded a stoppage-time equalizer from Sam Kerr less than two minutes earlier. In addition to actually scoring, though, she was influential in the team regrouping before getting the eventual game winner.
“In that moment I just looked at everyone and was like, ‘Hey, we got this. Believe that we are going to go forward right now,’” Monaghan said. “Looking at Kailen Sheridan, she was upset but then she popped right back up and said, ‘Hey, we got this’ and then all of a sudden it was everyone feeding off each other saying, ‘We have this. We can do this. Let’s go.'”
For her coaches, teammates and even herself, Monaghan’s goals were the result of the evolution she has made since beginning her professional career four months ago. Carli Lloyd, who tallied assists on both of Monaghan’s goals, said she was “proud” of the player, while Macedo called her “coachable” and a player who “loves information.” Monaghan said it was the product of her working environment.
“I’m surrounded by really good people and really great teammates,” Monaghan said. “They push me every day. They’ll be honest with me, whether it’s a good or bad thing and I really rely on them so much. I contribute all my progression towards them. It’s really from the team.”
Sky Blue replay the game plan against Red Stars
Sky Blue picked up its first win of the season just over a month ago when the team beat Chicago by the same scoreline at SeatGeek Stadium. The Red Stars were at times outmatched by Sky Blue, and that was once again the case on Wednesday.
“They’re very similar to what they did against us last time,” Red Stars head coach Rory Dames said. “Pretty direct and pretty dynamic up front so they make you deal with a lot of balls.”
For Sky Blue, the strategy meant preparing for a team stacked with talent. Perhaps the biggest star in a group of internationals is Kerr, who scored the Red Stars’ lone goal last month. As a result, Macedo and company had to prepare accordingly and managed to do so.
“Defensively, it [was] something that we prepared ourselves for,” Macedo said. “We did all our homework.”
Dames, though, noted that the quick turnaround his side had compared to Sky Blue also contributed to the result. The Red Stars played at the Washington Spirit on Saturday, while Sky Blue had a week of rest after a trip to Utah a week prior.
“I think in this league, whenever one team is playing on short rest, it’s always hard and the fact that we were away [and] away makes it a little bit more difficult,” Dames said. “I don’t think it makes for a balanced schedule for everybody.”
Dames did not pin the loss on fatigue, citing a lack of chance creation in the second half and a failure to convert in the first.
Coaching search continues
Almost two months ago, Sky Blue fired head coach Denise Reddy after about a year and a half in the position. Since then, Macedo and assistant coach Christiane Lessa have led the team, but interim general manager Alyse LaHue has always considered it a temporary solution. Last month, LaHue said she hoped to have an announcement “in the next couple of weeks,” but one has yet to come. The search is taking longer than expected.
“The reasons are good,” LaHue said Wednesday. “It’s because the interest in the position has been much greater than we expected. The number of candidates, the worldwide interest in the candidates has made this search much longer than I anticipated.”
LaHue said she and the owners are in the process of interviewing the candidates and emphasized again that the group is committed to finding a longterm option. As a result, the process may slow since “the owners are very committed to making sure that this isn’t just a rush decision.”
Though she hopes for an announcement “very soon,” a clear timeline has not been set publicly. LaHue suggested that is difficult to do while interviews are ongoing. It remains uncertain whether Reddy’s replacement will join the team this season or ahead of the next. However, LaHue remains confident in the process.
“It’s the right way to go about [it] as we really rebuild this club and we look to the future,” she said.