NEW YORK — With Sky Blue FC’s season officially behind the team, the next step for the team is to prepare for next season and figure out who will — and who might not — be there.
The 2019 season for the New Jersey-based club was an improvement, as on the field results were matched by better working and living conditions for players and a stronger overall reputation. The improvements weren’t quite enough — the team did not truly compete for a playoff spot, recording five wins that all came in the second half of the season. But in the end, the team finished in eighth, reaching a stated goal of not finishing last again.
Still, in order to continue riding that momentum, roster building for 2020 will be necessary. The task at hand for the front office remains a particularly difficult one, though. Sky Blue ended the season with 19 first-team players, including players on the supplemental roster. The returns of Mandy Freeman and Madison Tiernan from season-long injuries should help matters, but Sky Blue will need not just increased quality, but more players, in order to compete next season. On top of that, Sky Blue is yet to hire a permanent manager after Freya Coombe stepped in on an interim basis in September, leaving decisions up in the air until that has changed.
Here’s a look at where every player on the 2019 roster stands as the offseason begins:
The Buzz: The 2018 Rookie of the Year played all but one match this season and spent most of the second half of the season at left back. Coombe praised her ability in multiple roles in September: “It’s great that she’s flexible to play in both positions.”
Julie James Doyle
The Buzz: Doyle played 16 matches, starting 12 of them, in her rookie season. She played consistently under the different head coaches the team has had over the season, and showed promise as a central midfielder over the course of the season.
The Buzz: Dydasco played all but one match in her first season with Sky Blue, playing at her usual fullback and further up the pitch. Playing a crucial role in both defense and attack, her flexibility proved to be very useful over the course of the season.
The Buzz: Eddy was traded to Sky Blue in June, and immediately slotted into the lineup. She was helpful going forward for the team, and finished the season with one goal and one assist in 17 matches.
The Buzz: Freeman missed the entirety of the season after picking up an achilles tendon injury during preseason.
The Buzz: Haracic filled in for Kailen Sheridan when she went to the World Cup with Canada, and proved to be a capable backup in her first season with Sky Blue.
The Buzz: Hinz was signed in August to the team’s supplemental roster as a backup to Haracic and Sheridan. She did not play in 2019.
The Buzz: Hoy spent her season splitting time as a starter or an option off the bench, with seemingly no consensus yet on her best role. Still, her 21 games this season prove she was a valued attacking player over the course of the season.
The Buzz: Kawasumi’s first season with Sky Blue saw her add some life and depth to a struggling attack, but the player only recorded a single assist in 19 matches played.
The Buzz: The captain played every minute this season after signing a new deal in February with the promise that player conditions would improve. In August, Killion spoke positively about the changes: “You can tell how much [the front office] care about us. … That, in turn, wants us to give back to the club.”
The Buzz: The 2019 season saw an improvement in defensive performance, which Johnson contributed to in her first season with the team. When she was not playing for Cameroon, Johnson was the starting choice to partner Erica Skroski at center back, playing 15 games.
The Buzz: The Pennsylvania native joined Sky Blue in May to be close to home, and was a quick starter at both center back and fullback. The 34-year-old is likely to remain a mainstay as she gets closer to the end of her career.
The Buzz: Lloyd was the team’s leading goalscorer with eight goals in 14 matches, but is still unsure if she will play professional soccer next year. She said her future is “in flux” while she waits to find out if the new U.S. women’s national team coach will allow her a shot at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Buzz: The rookie played 23 matches, spending time in defense and midfield before playing her familiar forward after Denise Reddy’s firing. Eventually, she broke out with her first two professional goals in August and showed promise. “It’s her first year in the NWSL so it’s a lot of room for her to grow,” goalkeeper coach Hugo Macedo said in August. “I’m excited.”
The Buzz: The Canadian did not get a lot of game time this season, playing only 170 minutes in 11 games. She played only six minutes under interim Coombe.
The Buzz: Richardson spent much of the season out with an ankle injury, only playing eight times. She did end the season on a high, though, scoring in the team’s finale, a 3-2 loss against the North Carolina Courage.
The Buzz: The Costa Rica international was again a mainstay for Sky Blue, playing 22 matches and all as a starter. Like some of her other teammates, she played in multiple attacking positions over the season, getting three goals and three assists in the process.
The Buzz: Arguably the team’s most valuable player, Sheridan played 19 games and made more saves than any other goalkeeper during the regular season. Following the team’s home finale on in September, she said she would be happy to return. “This team is on an upward slope,” Sheridan said, “and I think I want to be here to push it over.”
The Buzz: The center back started every match of the season, continuing a streak of dependability that’s followed her since her 20 game rookie season in 2016.
The Buzz: Tiernan tore her ACL during preseason and missed the entirety of the 2019 season.
The Buzz: Wright played only five times in her rookie season, and her only start of the season was at right back in August. She did not play a minute after that outing, though she impressed in her 75 minute stint.