MANALAPAN TOWNSHIP, N.J. — After a rocky 2018 season and an offseason that also had its drama, things appear to have finally settled down for Sky Blue FC. It is more than just the promise of a season that should be better than the last — the team’s players finally got changes they asked for.
“When things don’t go well, doesn’t matter if you’re a corporation or you’re a team or something, you just can’t wait to have a redo,” Sky Blue coach Denise Reddy said following the team’s training Tuesday. “And we’ve done a lot of work in the offseason.”
The most notable of that work has come off the field, improving living and training conditions for the players to build what Reddy called a “more professional” atmosphere.
That came after several players, including United States women’s national team midfielder Carli Lloyd and Canadian national team goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, reported substandard conditions following last season’s final match against the Orlando Pride.
“I think that some of the stuff that was revealed about the club is obviously not some of the things you want to hear, but I think that in order for change to happen, those things do need to become public,” Lloyd said Tuesday after training. “I’m [giving] those players who spoke up, some anonymous, a lot of credit in bringing this to light.”
In addition to having meetings with Reddy and general manager Tony Novo, some players, including Sheridan, spoke to owners Steven Temares and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy after the season. Sheridan said her conversation with them via conference call was good for both parties, particularly the ownership.
“I told them after I made those comments that I wanted to be with the club and see it succeed,” she said. “I’m just kind of giving you a little ownership and I’m giving you a little push in the back. It’s everything that you guys do for us on the field, right? You give us a little push in the back at training. I’m giving you a little push, and they 110 percent stepped up.”
Sheridan had high praise for the visible developments, including the new apartments where players will be living during the 2019 season and the “2019 top-of-the-line” rental cars arranged for many of the players that were in need of them, excluding rookies and possibly any players acquired later in the season. According to a Sky Blue FC spokesperson, most clubs arrange cars for players, but players are frequently required to share, which was also the case for Sky Blue in 2018.
“Sky Blue did answer a lot of those concerns,” Sheridan said. “I think we’re in really, really stepped-up living conditions. Everything’s furnished, which is nice — which we’ve never had before. The vehicle situation’s awesome. The facilities are great so far.”
For Reddy, addressing the players’ concerns was “the most important thing” because it also impacted their performances. She said “there is no off-the-field stuff right now,” and that it has led to a boosted team morale.
“We’re on a clean sheet, and I think that, in itself, is refreshing,” Reddy said. “We’re not looking backwards. We’re looking only forward, and we all know that we have to do it together. And I think there’s a really great energy in the organization to achieve that goal.”
There is still work to do and perceptions to change outside of the club, but Sheridan agreed there is a different feel internally, something she noticed even before reporting for preseason training this week after being on international duty.
“Just talking to the girls and seeing how the first couple of days went, it was really exciting for me to want to come back,” Sheridan said. “Everybody was on a really good note, and now that I’ve had two days back with the girls, I’m really excited.”