Sky Blue GM Tony Novo (right) and head coach Denise Reddy (center). (Geoff Auger Photo)

By Michael Lewis Editor

CHICAGO — Like it or not, the reputation of Sky Blue FC precedes the National Women’s Soccer League team.

In fact, the team’s two leading college draft picks are balking as to whether they will sign with the club.

Last year Sky Blue FC endured several issues off the field.  The team finished dead last in the NWSL with a 1-17-6 mark, winning its final game of the season while setting a league record for the least wins in a season. There reportedly also were issues with the team’s training facilities and housing of players.

There were rumors and talk around Thursday’s college draft at McCormick Place that some college players prayed they would not be drafted by the New Jersey club.

Sky Blue FC general manager Tony Novo said he was happy with the draft, but the team might have some issues signing its two top choice — UCLA forward-defender Hailie Mace at No. 2 overall and University of North Carolina defender Julia Ashley, a Verona, N.J. native, at No. 6.

Given Sky Blue FC’s problems, the team wasn’t necessarily an enticing possibility.

“I’m excited for this opportunity,” Ashley said. “I’m really happy that Denise [Reddy, head coach] believes in me. I’m from New Jersey, but I’m not positive of what I want to do in regards to if I’m going to stay or go abroad. I have to explore those options.

“I’ve been talking to my agent about possibly France, Sweden or Germany,” Ashley told reporters. “I’m not sure yet, but it’s definitely an option.”

Novo said the team was confident it would sign Mace.

“There are challenges with her, but she will be here once we talk to her and get past some of the negatively that we’ve had in the past,” he said. “There are a lot of things that we have to overcome and continue to improve, housing, training facilities, all of the above. And those are concerns that everybody has and we’re trying to eliminate all those concerns.”