PISCATAWAY, N.J. — After earning one win in 33 matches across this season and the last, Sky Blue FC now has two wins in two matches since firing head coach Denise Reddy. Here are three takeaways from the team’s 1-0 victory against the Utah Royals:
Coaching change brings new energy
Ahead of the team’s win at the Chicago Red Stars last week, Sky Blue fired head coach Denise Reddy after a year and a half on the job and one win. Replacing her on the team sheets has been goalkeeper coach Hugo Macedo, but he has split the responsibilities with assistant coach Christiane Lessa. Since the change, the team has won both its matches, but Macedo said following the Royals match that not a lot has changed.
“It was a little bit of love,” Macedo said. “They’re professionals. They know what it’s like, what to do. When they jump on the field, they are prepared and they gave love on the field.”
Though Macedo remained modest about the changes that came with the coaching decision, the players were less so. Captain Sarah Killion, who recorded the game winning assist, spoke about a change in mentality during the past few weeks.
“People’s individual skills and talents and what makes them so unique as a player at this level are really shining through right now,” Killion said. “People just feel a belief not only in themselves, but in their teammates, 100-plus percent.”
Jen Hoy, who scored the game winner for Sky Blue against both the Red Stars and the Royals, echoed those statements, saying the players are “playing free.” Hoy also credited the coaching team with inviting a new energy.
“In any sport, any time there’s a coaching change, it’s expected that there’s going to be a shift in culture and a shift in energy,” Hoy said. “There’s a newness. There’s an excitement in the sense that, ‘OK, let’s prove ourselves. Whatever wasn’t working before, let’s make it work so things are different, but only in a very forward looking way.'”
Regarding the coaching responsibilities, Macedo said the duties are split evenly outside of being named on the team sheet.
“We do everything together,” Macedo said. “We talk a lot. Sometimes we spend two hours on the phone just talking. We speak about the game.” Dividing responsibilities, he added, were a matter of “common sense.”
Sky Blue earns season’s second clean sheet
The result remains the biggest headline for Sky Blue, but in addition to picking up a second win, the team also earned its second clean sheet. This is the team’s first since a 0-0 draw at the North Carolina Courage in May, with goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan making one save against the Royals.
The backline was unchanged from the win against the Red Stars, with Caprice Dydasco and Sabrina Flores as the fullbacks and Gina Lewandowski and Erica Skroski in the center. Hoy called the teammates behind her “huge.”
“They’re honestly so strong,” Hoy said. “They blow me away every single game. They’re unstoppable.”
The forward also commented on Lewandowski and Flores’ play, saying Lewandowski “leads by example and “inspires me to be better.”
As for Flores, Hoy describes her as “one of the youngest on the team, but she carries herself like she’s a veteran and that added to all the other veterans back there, it’s an incredible combination. You can see she’s so calm and composed and so are all the other girls back there so they really start the defense for us.”
Update on coaching search, roster
While Sky Blue’s co-coaches enjoy a successful record, interim general manager Alyse LaHue shared that it would not be a permanent situation.
“We are obviously looking to move quickly with us being past the midway point of the season right now, but it’s also an extremely important decision for the club,” LaHue said. “We hope to have the next head coach in place in the next couple weeks. … We want to take our time and make sure we find the right candidate.”
LaHue also confirmed that the club is looking at candidates outside of Sky Blue to fill the vacant position, despite the success of Macedo and Lessa in their short stint so far.
“I think even when things are going well, we’re constantly looking for what can be adjusted or what should be adjusted,” she said. “For us, it’s about this positive momentum obviously. … Obviously, our coaches do an incredible job in the interim, but it’s the players as well.”
Additionally, Hoy said Flores, a fourth-round draft pick, had played her final match. The club also shared in the game notes that midfielder Gabi was waived last week after the Brazilian made three substitute appearances.
Regarding Carli Lloyd, the team’s star who was part of the United States’ World Cup winning team, LaHue said Lloyd “needs a little time emotionally to recover from the World Cup,” but is “in incredible spirits. She was really looking forward to coming back.”