CHICAGO — Sky Blue FC made plenty of headlines last season – but for all the wrong reasons. The team finished last in the league and reports surfaced about substandard conditions at team facilities and player housing.
That could impact Sky Blue’s ability to reap the rewards of its 2019 draft. Raising the standards of team facilities is the main focus area for the club heading into 2019, according to president and general manager Tony Novo.
The futures of the team’s top two picks during Thursday’s NWSL draft, Hailie Mace and Julia Ashley, are in flux. Ashley said after the draft she was contemplating playing in Europe instead of reporting to New Jersey.
“Yeah that’s common for any player coming into the league today,” Novo said. “Very confident that we’re gonna be able to sign her.”
Mace doesn’t want to play in New Jersey either, according to The Equalizer.
“There’s challenges with her, but I think she will be here once we talk to her and get past some of the negativity that we’ve had in the past,” Novo said. “There’s a lot of things that we have to overcome, all of the things we’re gonna continue to improve, housing, training facilities, all of the above, I think those are concerns that anybody has and we’re trying to eliminate some of those concerns.”
Novo said the club meets all the minimum standards required by NWSL, but there were improvements to make.
Novo also said the league’s increase of money each team is allowed to spend on housing its players will help New Jersey – maybe even more so than other teams.
“That helped us tremendously,” he said. “I’ve said this before – we’re not in Kansas, you know, we’re in New Jersey where it’s very expensive. And that’s not a knock on Kansas. It’s just, when I compare what we pay for housing a player to what they pay for housing a player there — so I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. New Jersey is a very high-rent district. There’s no doubt about that. … Let’s put it this way, the apartments our players were in last year were very good. I think all of them will attest to that. It’s just a question of can we get more players in that type of housing?”
It’s also a question of team facilities – which Novo assured would be better in 2019.
“We’ve been working towards that,” Novo said. “I promise you guys that within the next 30 days or so we’re gonna make some of those announcements of improvements that we’ve made to training, to housing.”