When Sky Blue FC lines up for its introductory match of the 2018 National Women’s Soccer League season, the presentation on both sides of the ball will have a distinct flavor.
“I want to play possession oriented with short passing, numbers around the ball and dynamic movements in the final third,” first-year SBFC coach Denise Reddy said. “If we lose it, we win the ball back right away. We’re going to make mistakes but can we win it right back.”
Sky Blue is on the road for a Saturday match against NWSL finalists from a season ago, the North Carolina Courage.
Reddy acknowledged that her vision of the game is derived from hours of infiltrating the methods of Barcelona and now Manchester City under manager Pep Guardiola.
“I’m a Pep fan, man,” Reddy said. “I’ve read everything from him, have watched every video and have seen him live in training. I have a quote in my Pro License thesis from Pep.”
Reddy played professionally for over a decade in Sweden, reaching the Champions League semifinals while serving as captain for Malmo FF. She began her professional coaching career in 2007, directing Jersey Sky Blue in the United Soccer League – the predecessor to Sky Blue FC. Reddy earned her UEFA Pro License and has held head coaching positions in Denmark and Sweden. She assisted current Chelsea FC coach Emma Hayes at the Chicago Stars for two seasons while working under Jim Gabarra and the Washington Spirit in 2017.
“I gained so much from the coaches I had and worked with, both European and American,” Reddy said. “I learned that having a coaching style is number one. Then you have to believe in it and back it up at every corner.”
While in Chicago with the Red Stars, Reddy spent hours on the training pitch with two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Carli Lloyd. They have been re-united at SBFC.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with Carli and she is excited about the playing style I am trying to implement,” Reddy said. “She’s all in.”
Nine years have passed since Reddy and Lloyd – a pair of New Jersey natives who were All-Americans at Rutgers – operated together in Chicago. The new Sky Blue coach says Lloyd has continuously developed her tools and soccer brain.
“She’s more of a complete player now,” Reddy said. “You could play her in any of six attacking positions. She has a better understanding of the game. The versatility is huge. You can see the national team playing her now as a 9 (striker) sometimes.”
Lloyd has made her mark as the top attacking midfielder in the world and will turn 36 in mid-July. Reddy claims that there is nothing apparent to suggest that age is a factor in Lloyd’s game.
“I’m really impressed with the amount of running she does,” Reddy said. “She’ll be the weak-side mid and make a long diagonal run to get in position for the ball. That kind of stuff is next level for me.”
Reddy has also noted that Lloyd is wiser in her on-field decisions and discovered the importance of recovery.
“The older you get, you have to be smarter,” Reddy said. “You know when you need to make a run and the timing of the run. And she is so professional in her preparation and the care of her body after.”
Lloyd is one of six players that Reddy added through transfer or trades in the off-season. Also joining the Jersey side are defender Christina Gibbons, Brazilian international Thaisa Moreno plus attackers Shea Groom, Janine Beckie and Katie Johnson. They are all projected starters although Moreno is away with Marta and her Brazilian teammates for World Cup qualifying.
Kick-off for the NC Courage versus SBFC match is 3:00pm ET and can be watched using the go90 app.