Sky Blue FC attrached a team-record 9,415 at Red Bull Arena Aug. 18. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
After calling Yurcak Field home for just about every game it hosted since the franchise’s inception in 2009, Sky Blue FC decided to make the big leap to Red Bull Arena for the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League season.
Sky Blue’s decision was aided by the team played to a 1-1 draw against Reign FC before a team-record 9,415 spectators at RBA Aug. 18.
Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University held 5,000 fans at the most. The team record was 5,003, set in a 1-0 defeat to the Washington Sprit July 24. Entering the match, Sky Blue was last in the nine-team NWSL in attendance, averaging 2,001. The team had averaged 2,380 the past 10 years.
So, not surprisingly, the RBA match was hailed as a success by players and management.
“When fans come here, and they see us, they see it inspiring, encouraging,” Reign midfielder, U.S. international and Northport, N.Y. native Allie Long said. “It was loud, it was a great environment. Even though it was so hot, I think it was the standard in the NWSL. I hope we can continue and play here more. But I think it was a great start to play here.”
Teams and players have abhorred performing at Yurcak, which has a decent field, but no showers for players.
“Playing at Red Bull Arena allows us to feel like a professional athlete,” Long said. “When you’re at Yurcak, you feel like you’re at college again.”
Not next year as RBA has been considered one of the best, if not the best, Major League Soccer venues. The Red Bulls have been playing there since 2010.
“We’re thrilled to partner with the Red Bulls to expand support for professional women’s soccer,” Sky Blue owner representative Tammy Murphy said. “Last season demonstrated that we are ready to take our players and fans to the next level.
“This move provides our professional athletes with the top-notch facilities they deserve and gives our growing fanbase increased access via public transit and an enhanced game day experience.”
And closer to New York City, northern New Jersey and Connecticut, where thousands of women’s soccer enthusiasts work, live and play soccer.
“After our players and fans experienced Red Bull Arena in 2019, we knew it was the perfect venue to host Sky Blue and showcase this incredible league,” Sky Blue general manager Alyse LaHue said. “We’re extremely grateful to the Red Bulls organization for all their efforts in reaching this agreement and will always remain thankful to Rutgers for their commitment to Sky Blue throughout the years.
“The move to Red Bull Arena builds upon the positive momentum we gained last season and will help propel our club and the league to the next level.”
While Sky Blue failed to reach the NWSL playoffs, the team had a marked improvement over 2018, which was the worst by a team in NWSL history. The squad finished with but one win that season and that came in the final match as it closed out with an utterly forgettable 1-17-16 mark and in ninth and last place.
This past season Sky Blue climbed to eighth place with a 5-14-1 record.
Friday: Local story No. 4