Sky Blue FC Profile
|Major Honours||Women's Professional Soccer (1)|
From their shock title win in 2009 to the instability that followed, here is the story behind one of the NWSL's oldest clubs.
Sky Blue FC were founded in New Jersey in 2007, with their inaugural season set for 2009. They named Ian Sawyers as their first manager on March 5, 2008, and the name Sky Blue was announced on September 9, 2008.
The majority owners of Sky Blue are Phil and Tammy Murphy. Phil is the current Governor of New Jersey. Steven Temares, the former CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond, joined the ownership group in 2009. Ed Nalbandian joined the ownership group in January 2020.
Sky Blue have played at four different stadiums in their history. Their most-used stadium has been Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ.
They played games at Yurcak from 2009-11 and again from 2013-19. They played two games of their opening season at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, NJ, the home of the Somerset Patriots independent baseball team.
After playing two games in 2019, Sky Blue announced an agreement with MLS side New York Red Bulls to use Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, as their home facility for the 2020 season.
Due to conflicts with the Red Bulls' schedule, they played two games in 2020 at Pittser Field on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ.
The Championship year
With the start of Women's Professional Soccer in 2009, each team was allocated players from the US women's national team.
Sky Blue got Heather O'Reilly, Christie Pearce (Rampone) and Natasha Kai in September 2008.
At the International Draft, they selected Australian forward Sarah Walsh, Brazilian midfielder Ester, Brazilian winger Rosana, and Canadian midfielder Kelly Parker.
The 2009 season kicked off on April 5 and Sky Blue lost to the Los Angeles Sol 2-0 in their opening game. O'Reilly scored the Sky Blue's first-ever goal in a 1-1 draw against FC Gold Pride on April 11.
Their first victory came in Chicago as Walsh and Kai scored in a 2-0 success. Sawyers was suspended by the team in May due to differences with the ownership and assistant Kelly Lindsey took over as interim manager with the team in last place.
Sawyers, who was also the general manager, was fired from both positions before the end of May.
Sky Blue beat the Red Stars again in June to move into fifth place, and Lindsey was named manager for the rest of the season.
Walsh was traded to St. Louis on June 26 for forward Kerri Hanks and midfielder Francielle. Hanks scored the game winner against Chicago after a 4-4 draw against Washington.
Lindsey resigned on July 29 and Rampone, who was the team captain, became player-manager. In her first game in charge, the Sky Blue beat FC Gold Pride 2-0 to move into the top four.
Sky Blue finished fourth and made the play-offs with seven wins, five draws and eight defeats over the regular season.
In the first round of the play-offs, they beat Washington Freedom 2-1 with goals from Kai and Francielle.
In the Super Semifinals, they travelled to St. Louis and grabbed a 1-0 victory through a Keeley Dowling goal. This saw them set up a final clash with the Los Angeles Sol.
This was Sky Blue's third game in eight days and in a third different time zone too. O'Reilly scored in the first half and the Sol were reduced to 10 players. So things remained and Sky Blue pulled off a 1-0 upset.
Kai led the team with six goals over the season as Rosana scored five. Dowling, Collette McCallum and O'Reilly each had three assists, while goalie Jenni Branam kept six clean sheets.
Rampone played in the WPS All-Star Game and O'Reilly was a reserve. Rampone also won the WPS Sportswoman of the Year.
Women's Professional Soccer era ends
After the championship season, Sky Blue hired Pauliina Miettinen to be their new manager for the 2010 campaign. They also signed US women's national team star Carli Lloyd and Dutch international Daphne Koster.
Sky Blue started the season with a 1-0 win over Chicago, but they struggled to score over the next two months.
They had won five of 14 when Miettinen was fired and replaced by assistant coach Rick Stainton.
That didn't help much as they won just two out of eight down the stretch, finished in fifth place and missed the play-offs by three points.
Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was the WPS Player of the Month in May and she made the All-Star team along with O'Reilly, Rampone and Kai.
The Jim Gabarra era
Jim Gabarra, who had managed the Washington Freedom for a decade, was hired ahead of the 2011 season.
During pre-season, Sky Blue made it to the finals of the Alanya International Women's Tournament of Champions in Turkey, losing to LdB FC Malmo 1-0.
The WPS had lost four teams before the 2011 season and played an 18-game schedule with six teams. Sky Blue opened with a 2-2 draw against Philadelphia Independence before losing three straight on the road.
The Sky Blue picked up points in each of the next five games to set a team-record unbeaten streak.
They needed a win in the final four games to make the play-offs but came up empty and missed out on a tiebreaker with Boston.
The 2012 WPS season was suspended and the league folded. Sky Blue shared players with the New Jersey Wildcats of the W-League so they wouldn't go a full year without playing.
The National Women's Soccer League was founded in November 2012, and the Sky Blue were one of eight charter members to begin playing in April 2013.
They kept Rample and added forward Kelley O'Hara, Australian defender Caitlin Foord, Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt and Mexican forward Monica Ocampo as allocated players.
Sky Blue had a great start in the NWSL, with two consecutive wins to kick off the season. This form continued as they won seven of their first nine games with four straight clean sheets from May 11 to May 25.
They slumped in the middle of the season though, with only one win between June 22 and August 3.
However, Sky Blue did manage to clinch a play-off spot as they beat Washington 1-0 before earning draws in their final two games.
With 36 points, Sky Blue finished fourth and drew top-seeded Western New York in the first-ever NWSL play-off game. On the road, they fell 2-0 to the Flash to end the season.
Goalkeeper Brittany Cameron was the NWSL Player of the Month in May with four wins and 27 saves, while Ocampo won the award in August with three goals.
Ocampo led the team with eight goals overall while Rampone and Foord made the NWSL Best XI.
Sky Blue started the 2014 season with a pair of 1-1 draws before losing the next two games. They beat Boston 1-0 on May 3 for their first win of the campaign, but then went six games without a victory.
In July, Sky Blue signed Dutch striker Nadia Nadim and she scored seven goals with three assists in six games. She was also named August Player of the Month.
Sky Blue won their final five games of the regular season but still missed the playoffs by one point. They finished with 34 points from 24 games with a -7 goal difference.
O'Hara and Nadim led the team with seven goals, while Rampone represented Sky Blue in the NWSL Best XI.
Sky Blue won the 2015 opener but then went 10 straight games without a win before and during the 2015 Women's World Cup.
They added Australian forward Samantha Kerr and she debuted on July 11 with the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Portland.
Kerr added some firepower, but Sky Blue still finished in eighth place out of nine teams with 22 points.
Kerr scored six times in nine games and Nadim added six goals as well. Gabarra left the team on mutual terms at the end of the season and returned to the Washington Spirit.
He holds the team record for most wins (29), most draws (29) and most games coached (84) at Sky Blue.
The Christy Holly era
Gabarra's assistant Christy Holly took over ahead of the 2016 campaign. He inherited a team with Kerr for the full season, but Nadim was no longer with Sky Blue.
He won his opener against Seattle Reign, but Sky Blue won just two of their first nine games. They got going in late June with four wins from five games before Kerr and Rampone left to play in the 2016 Olympics.
Kerr scored in four straight games on her return, but Sky Blue won just one of those games and finished in seventh place.
Kerr led the team with five goals in nine games, while Tasha Kai scored four times. Raquel Rodriguez was the NWSL Rookie of the Year and Rampone made the Best XI Second Team.
In 2017, Sky Blue drew their opener against Seattle, then alternated wins and losses over the next four games. They were in third place on July 15 before succumbing to three straight defeats.
On August 16, Holly resigned, and two days later, Rampone announced she was done for the season with an injury.
Sky Blue did have a shot at the play-offs but lost two straight in September and finished in sixth place, six points adrift.
Kerr set an NWSL record with 17 goals and she was named the NWSL MVP. She won the Player of the Month award in May and June. Kerr was the only Sky Blue player on the NWSL Best XI.
Holly won 14 games with seven draws and 17 losses during his tenure. The number of wins, draws and games managed (38) are second only to his predecessor Gabarra.
An era of inconsistency
With Holly gone, Sky Blue lost 30 of their next 49 games with just eight wins under three different managers.
Dave Hodgson was the interim manager for the rest of the 2017 season with three wins, one draw and a single defeat.
Denise Reddy was hired from Washington Spirit to manage the team in 2018. Rampone, now going by Pearce, didn't return to the side, but Sky Blue did bring Lloyd back home.
However, that trade cost them Kerr. They also traded Foord to Seattle and O'Hara to Utah for Shea Groom and Christina Gibbons.
The entire season was a disaster as they lost their first two games and six of their first seven.
The Sky Blue set an NWSL record by going 23 straight games without a win until they finally beat Orlando 1-0 in the final game of the season.
With nine points from 24 games, they finished dead last as Lloyd led the team with just four goals.
Heading into the 2019 season, Sky Blue's top two draft picks refused to sign with the team, going to Europe instead.
General manager/president Tony Novo resigned on April 9, and the team started the campaign by losing seven of their first nine games, drawing the other two.
Reddy was fired on June 28 after winning just one of her 33 games as manager with eight draws and 24 losses.
Goalkeeper coach Hugo Macedo took over and Sky Blue won twice in July before adding two more wins in August.
Freya Coombe was named manager on September 4 and Sky Blue finished the season with five wins in total and 20 points from 24 games.
Lloyd led the team with eight goals despite missing part of the season due to the World Cup.
The 2020 regular season was wiped out due to COVID-19, although the NWSL held an eight-team Challenge Cup in June and July in Utah.
Lloyd and newly-acquired forward Mallory Pugh missed the tournament due to injury, and midfielder Sarah Woldmoe was named captain in Lloyd's absence.
In the Challenge Cup, they drew 0-0 with the OL Reign, lost 1-0 to Utah Royals FC, beat Houston Dash 2-0 and lost to North Carolina Courage 2-0.
In the knockout round, they upset Washington as the No. 7 seed in a penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw. In the semi-finals, they fell to the Chicago Red Stars 3-2.
In the 2020 Fall Series, the Sky Blue beat Washington 2-1 before falling in the next two games. They beat Chicago 3-1 to finish in fourth place with six points from four games.
Top Sky Blue players
Christie Pearce holds the Sky Blue franchise record for appearances with 117, one more than Sarah Woldmoe. Erica Skroski (85), Taylor Lytle (82) and Raquel Rodriguez (76) round out the top five.
Sam Kerr holds the team record in goals scored with 28 in 40 games, while Natasha Kai scored 15 times over 58 games in her two stints with the club.
Kelley O'Hara netted 15 goals in 75 games between 2013 and 2017, while Nadia Nadim scored 13 times. Carli Lloyd is the active leader with 12 goals in 37 games and the biggest name to call Sky Blue home.
Kerr holds the single season goal scoring record for Sky Blue with 17 goals in 2017, breaking the eight set by Monica Ocampo in 2013.