Sam Kerr is poised to have a big year for Sky Blue FC. (Robyn McNeil, ISI Photos courtesy of Sky Blue FC)
SEATTLE — Sky Blue FC kicks off its fifth National Women’s Soccer League season at Seattle Reign FC at Memorial Stadium Saturday at 10 p.m.
Fans can watch the game live via NWSL streaming partner go90.
“Since the schedule was announced, we have been looking forward to April 15th,” Sky Blue FC head coach Christy Holly said. “We feel that we had a very successful preseason, and we now aim to translate our performances from training into the league where it really matters.”
Sky Blue FC starts the season in Seattle for the second consecutive year after handing Reign FC its first loss at Memorial Stadium, 2-1. The result snapped a 22-home match unbeaten streak for Reign as Holly began his tenure as head coach. In Sky Blue FC’s Starting XI that day were five players who had never logged a minute in the NWSL, including four rookies who were made their pro debuts.
Sky Blue FC figures to have more players making their NWSL debuts Saturday night, beginning with free agent acquisition Daphne Corboz, who joins the New Jersey midfield after spending the past two seasons playing with Manchester City.
Five 2017 NWSL college draft selections also earned professional contracts with Sky Blue FC after successful preseasons, with those being Canada international Kailen Sheridan, 2016 NCAA College Cup champions Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman, as well as prolific college goal-scorers McKenzie Meehan and Madison Tiernan.
The Sky Blue FC defense again will be anchored by captain Christie Rampone. Also logging time on the back line will be second-year players Erica Skroski and Erin Simon, with Mills and Freeman joining veteran Domi Richardson there. Backing them up will be two young goalkeepers in Sheridan, a rookie who was allocated by the Canada women’s national team, and second-year returner Caroline Casey, who recorded the win against Reign FC a year ago in her professional debut.
The New Jersey midfield appears to be exceptionally strong, beginning with the return of veterans Sarah Killion, Raquel Rodriguez, Taylor Lytle and Nikki Stanton. New player include Jersey natives Corboz and Tiernan.
The focal point of the attack will be Australia international Sam Kerr, who has led the team in goals the past two seasons despite playing in 18 matches (15 starts). In four NWSL seasons, the 23-year-old Kerr has registered 36 goals and 11 assists in 59 appearances.
U.S. international Kelley O’Hara has been moved to forward. A prolific playmaker at Stanford University (57 goals, 32 assists), O’Hara has spent most of her professional career at defender for club and country.
Rounding out the attack are second-year England international Leah Galton (three goals, four assists), a Hofstra University graduate, along with veterans Maya Hayes (three goals), Kim DeCesare and rookie Meehan. Tasha Kai will begin the season on the 45-day disabled list after undergoing offseason procedures on her left and right ankles.
By winning the 2016 season series with Reign FC (1-0-1), Sky Blue FC leveled the all-time series to a 3-3-4 record. Entering its fifth season in the NWSL, Sky Blue FC has never lost on opening weekend.
Sky Blue FC will host FC Kansas City at Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J. Sunday, April 30 at 6 p.m.