Sky Blue FC shot to the top of the standing in the first half of last season before falling to a fourth place finish amid the injury bug striking down several offensive weapons. The club struggled to score consistently, scoring the third-fewest goals (31) in the league, ahead of just Washington (16) and Seattle (22).
The New Jersey-based club got an added offensive boost today when the 2014 allocations were announced. Canadian forward Jonelle Filigno will be the only new face in the allocation picture.
The former Scarlet Knight will not have to go far to start her professional career as Sky Blue FC is slated to play at Rutgers University’s Yurcak field (though other options are being explored). Filigno scored eight goals and added three assists for 19 points in her final season as a Knight, which was good for second on the team.
Sky Blue will retain the rights to all three of their United States allocations in defender Christie Rampone, forward/defender Kelley O’Hara and goalkeeper Jillian Loyden. Loyden was expected to start between the pipes but a preseason hand injury sustained with the U.S. Women’s national team at the Algarve Cup kept her off the pitch for the first month of play. Brittany Cameron took the starting spot and finished the season with eight shutouts. Rampone anchored a young backline that handed Portland its first loss of the season and bottled up Alex Morgan in the first two meetings between the clubs.
Head coach Jim Gabarra made the decision to have O’Hara split time on the backline and in the attack. It was a move designed to generate some goals that didn’t quite come to fruition as O’Hara went scoreless in 12 matches. A nagging ankle injury kept her off the pitch for much of the second half of the season. She had reconstructive surgery on August 15 and is expected to be ready for preseason in March.
Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt and Mexican forward Monica Ocampo also return to the club. The pair accounted for 15 of the club’s 31 goals with Ocampo leading the team with eight and Schmidt adding seven.
An expansion draft will take place next week, reportedly on Jan. 10. Each club will be allowed to protect two of three U.S. allocations, with the third going into the Expansion draft where the Dash will select their remaining two U.S. allocations.
Expansion draft: It’s doubtful that we will see Christie Rampone put in the Expansion draft pool. Neither Loyden, nor O’Hara were at full strength for all of last season. With Brittany Cameron earning her first call-up to the U.S. Women’s national team in December and her performance last season, Sky Blue can put Loyden in the expansion draft. Gabarra seemed to favor Cameron even after Loyden was healthy in 2013. Houston might give her an opportunity to start, particularly with the World Cup just a year away.