The National Women's Soccer Leauge (NWSL) has released the long-awaited schedule for the upcoming 2016 season. All the dates, except the semifinal and final, are now available for public consumption.
The full Sky Blue FC schedule can be found here.
While the full schedule is nice, let’s take a look at a few games of note.
Season opener: Sky Blue FC at the Seattle Reign Sunday, April 17, 2016.
Sky Blue will look to put a damper on the reigning NWSL Shield winner’s home opener. Seattle is a powerful regular season team who has never lost at home since their move to Memorial Stadium at the start of the second NWSL season.
Sky Blue, like every other NWSL team, will have to figure out a way to stop midfielder Kim Little. Having an upgraded attack with Natasha Kai and Raquel Rodríguez, in addition to veteran Kelley O’Hara, work in the midfield should give Sky Blue a fighting chance. As always, having Christie Rampone anchoring the back line makes the defense formidable.
2015 Results: A 1-1 tie at Yurcak Field, a 3-0 loss and a 1-1 tie at Memorial Stadium
Home opener: Washington Spirit at Sky Blue FC Sunday, April 24, 2016.
The NWSL unbalanced schedule makes sure to feature regional match-ups this season. Sky Blue will play Washington four times in 2016, starting off with their home opener. Washington lost goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris in the Orlando Pride expansion draft, but they gained Canadian shot stopper Stephanie Labbé during the off season.
Sky Blue and Washington are going to be very familiar with each other. Last season they played only two matches, and both were held in the first six weeks of the season. They resulted in an April 26, 2015, 1-3 loss at Yurcak Field and a May 16, 2015, 0-1 loss at Maryland SoccerPlex.
Sky Blue and Washington will play in consecutive weeks right before the month-long Olympic break on July 23, 2016, and July 30, 2016.
One story line for 2016 will be former Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra taking the reins of the Washington Spirit.
2015 Results: A 1-3 loss at Yurcak Field and a 0-1 loss at Maryland SoccerPlex.
The single August game: Chicago Red Stars at Sky Blue FC Saturday, August 27, 2016.
Because of the 2016 Rio Olympics, the NWSL will be taking a month off for nearly all of August. As a result of the scheduling quirk, Sky Blue will only have one match that month, which will be against the Chicago Red Stars. Chicago placed second in the 2015 NWSL regular season and should be a tough match for Sky Blue. It could also feature to be a must-win match for the N.J.-based franchise as they look to qualify for the 2016 playoffs.
2015 Results: A 0-1 loss and a 1-1 tie at Benedictine University Sports Complex and a 0-3 loss at Yurcak Field.
Home closer: Portland Thorns FC at Sky Blue FC Wednesday, September 2, 2016.
Sky Blue closes things out against the one-time NWSL champ Portland Thorns FC. The Thorns under performed for much of last season, but a major overhaul this past off season means they should be a much different team in 2016.
Sky Blue won two out of three meetings last year with Portland, going 2-0 against them at home and having a close loss at Providence Park. If Sky Blue can stay healthy and perform up to the level of the squad assembled, then they have a shot to once again top the NWSL’s first-season champs.
2015 Results: 2-1 loss at Providence Park and a pair of 1-0 wins at Yurcak Field.