Sky Blue FC has officially cooled off.
After entering the season on a five-game winning streak carried over from last year and defeating reigning NWSL Champions FC Kansas City, the New Jersey club has gone winless in three games, managing just one point in the process.
When Sky Blue (1-2-1) hosts defending Shield winners Seattle Reign FC (2-2-0), tonight at 7 p.m. ET at Yurcak Field in Piscataway N.J., it faces an opponent starting to hit its stride and is largely unaffected by World Cup call-ups throughout the midfield and defense.
Sky Blue will be without defenders and U.S. internationals Christie Rampone and Kelley O’Hara as well as Canadian international and forward Jonelle Filigno.
The gap in quality without Rampone and O’Hara was apparent during last week’s matchup between Sky Blue and Chicago Red Stars.
Chicago dominated large portions of the game with a near full-strength squad with goalkeeper Brittany Cameron forced to make a season-high nine saves in the 1-0 road loss.
Head coach Jim Gabarra remains calm about his team’s early struggles, promising a stronger showing in what will be one of Sky Blue’s last two home games until the end of June.
“We have faced some really tough challenges in all of our games so far this year, and that has helped us grow as a team,” Gabarra said. “Seattle is the defending Shield winners and a team that has been playing very well together for the better part of over a year now. They are minimally affected by the World Cup, so we are looking forward to this challenge. We have had a really good week of training and fixing some things, and we expect to give a much better performance on Saturday night.”
In order to earn a result, Sky Blue’s defense will have to contain a Seattle side coming off a 3-1 thumping over the Washington Spirit, which beat Sky Blue by an identical score line the week prior in Piscataway.
That includes containing Reign forward Beverly Yanez who has scored three times in four games and the 2014 NWSL MVP and Golden Boot winner Kim Little who has yet to find the back of the net.
But Sky Blue’s biggest concern comes in its own offensive third where it has yet to score more than one goal in a single game. Most of the early struggles have come from the team’s overreliance on star forward Nadia Nadim, which the club road the coattails of during last season’s final five games.
The Danish international’s slow start comes partially from a groin injury suffered in the second week of the season, but mostly stems from the team’s inability to build consistent attacks through possession.
Seattle’s woeful road record—1-4-1 since July 12—gives Sky Blue hope of managing a home result but in order to defeat a team looking to start its first winning streak of 2015, it will need to sort out its stagnant attack.