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Match preview: Sky Blue FC faces Orlando Pride in midweek matchup

Sky Blue FC must pick up three points against the NWSL’s newest team to keep its playoffs hopes alive.

Sarah Killion
Sarah Killion advances the ball for Sky Blue FC
Robyn McNeil, ISI Photos

Sky Blue FC (6-7-4, 22 points) returns to Yurcak Field on Wednesday, September 7 to take on the newest NWSL team, the Orlando Pride (6-44-1, 18 points), in a home-and-home series that will conclude on Saturday, September 10.

Wednesday night’s game is a must win for Sky Blue, who could see their goal of making it to the NWSL championship match slip completely out of reach with a loss against the Pride. Depending on how the other four matches Wednesday night fare, Sky Blue could be eliminated from playoff contention if they leave Yurcak Field with anything short of three points.

That task will not be an easy one. Sky Blue only has two days off between their 2-1 road loss against FC Kansas City on Sunday and Wednesday night’s match, leaving them little time for travel, recovery and training between matches.

The team is also going into the match on a three-game losing streak, and the added pressure of it being make-or-break for the playoffs could be enough to rattle even the most-experienced players.

Kelley O’Hara will once again be unavailable for Sky Blue Wednesday night. O'Hara suffered a right ankle sprain during stoppage time of the team's 3-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars. Although Sky Blue has done well in O’Hara’s absences with the USWNT, O'Hara brings strength to both their attack and defense regardless of where Coach Holly plays her on the field.

Sky Blue is not the only team that will be without some of its best players on Wednesday night though. Pride defender Steph Catley has already returned to Australia after suffering a season-ending left metatarsal fracture, and defender Laura Alleway and midfielder Becky Edwards are both unavailable Wednesday night because of a left quad strain and concussion respectively.

It has been reported, though, that Wednesday night will mark the return of Australian-international Lisa DeVanna to NWSL competition. DeVanna, who signed with the Orlando Pride last week, previously played for Sky Blue in its inaugural NWSL season before being traded to the Boston Breakers and eventually landing with the Washington Spirit. After two seasons in the NWSL, DeVanna returned home to Australia to play in the W-League, where she won the Westfield W-League championship for the 2015-2016 season with Melbourne City FC.

Wednesday night’s contest will most likely be decided by which team’s defense gets it together the most. Both Sky Blue’s and Orlando’s defenses have looked disorganized and chaotic since returning from the Olympic break, giving up five and six goals in their last two matches respectively.

While Wednesday’s night has the potential to get physical, Sky Blue will have to be careful with how aggressive they get on the pitch. Unnecessary fouls by Sky Blue have resulted in game-winning goals on multiple occasions now, including Sunday’s 1-2 loss to FC Kansas City.

Sky Blue FC takes on the Orlando Pride at Yurcak Field on Wednesday, September 7 at 7 p.m. EST. The game will be streamed online on the NWSL Soccer YouTube channel and is available here.

Sky Blue FC Roster by Position:

Goalkeepers (2): Caroline Casey, Caroline Stanley

Defenders (5): CoCo Goodson, Kristin Grubka, Christie Rampone (C), Erin Simon, Erica Skroski

Midfielders (8): Kelly Conheeney, Theresa Diederich, Shawna Gordon, Sarah Killion, Taylor Lytle, Domi Richardson, Raquel Rodriguez, Nikki Stanton

Forwards (5): Leah Galton, Maya Hayes, Tasha Kai, Samantha Kerr, Danielle Schulmann

What: Sky Blue FC v Orlando Pride

When: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at 7 p.m. EST

Where: Yurcak Field, Piscataway, New Jersey, U.S.A

Online: NWSL Soccer channel on YouTube