Sky Blue FC travels to Florida to take on magicJack on Wednesday night at 7 PM at Florida Atlantic University. The two teams, along with Boston Breakers, currently sit tied in points for third on the table. Sky Blue FC and magicJack have met just once before, a game that saw magicJack take an early 2-0 lead before Sky Blue FC answered back with two goals 56 seconds apart to force a 2-2 draw. This is the first time Sky Blue will play at Florida Atlantic.
Coming off a 2-0 win over league-leaders Philadelphia on Saturday, the New Jersey team should be feeling pretty confident heading into Wednesday’s contest. The rotating cast of characters working as midfielders and forwards caused trouble for the Independence on Saturday, and should do well in the narrow confines of magicJack’s home field. The close-quarters passing will be a sharp contrast to a magicJack team that recently re-gained the services of most of its World Cup players and relies heavily on a quartet of target forwards in Abby Wambach, Lisa De Vanna, Christen Press and Ella Masar.
For magicJack, Wednesday’s match is the team’s third in eight days – this after a large chunk of the roster returned from the World Cup final little more than a week ago. Wambach took over as player-coach last week after owner/sometimes coach Dan Borislow was suspended by the league for the remainder of the season after players filed a grievance against him. Wambach reportedly deviated from Borislow’s three-back system last weekend in Atlanta, playing with four defenders, but a return to the smaller FAU could also bring the return of the three-back. All of magicJack’s World Cup players, with the exception of goalkeeper Hope Solo, are listed as available for the first time since the tournament ended, and Wednesday could see the debut of midfielder Megan Rapinoe. Jillian Loyden will be in goal with Solo absent. Former Sky Blue captain Christie Rampone will face her old team for the first time as she anchors the magicJack defense in front of Loyden.
MagicJack will is winless in its last five, but still stands as the only team unbeaten at home this season. Loyden looked shaky in her return to WPS action two weeks ago, and the revolving door lineup could take its toll on the team as Rapinoe and the return of Shannon Boxx could once again shake up the lineup.
Sky Blue is playing its second game in five days, but that may actually be a benefit for the New Jersey side. On Saturday against Philadelphia the midfield was extremely crowded, partly by design and partly because Heather O'Reilly and Therese Sjögran have seen only limited time with Adriana in front of them due to the World Cup. With one game - and a few more days of training together - now uder their belt, the Sky Blue attack should be able to function as a more cohesive unit.
Casey Nogueira, who was relegated to sub-duty after a few disappointing games, came in as a second-half sub last weekend and scored both Sky Blue FC goals. Bringing in the fresh legs of a player like Nogueira or Tobin Heath may be a good strategy for Jim Gabarra again on Wednesday as his side faces a team playing on very little rest. Laura Kalmari didn't play at all on Saturday, giving Gabarra yet another attacking option for Wednesday.
Defensively, Anita Asante seems to have settled back in alongside Carrie Dew. De Vanna is deceptively quick, but the pair did well to shut down a similarly speedy attack last weekend. Asante is familiar with the magicJack attack though. Last season she was a teammate of Masar's in Chicago and of Wambach's and De Vanna's in Washington - a team, and two players, that Gabarra coached for two seasons.