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Match Preview: Sky Blue FC vs. Seattle Reign FC – 3 Things To Look For

Sky Blue FC opens NWSL season on the road against Seattle

Rookie Kayla Mills will make her NWSL debut on Saturday night against Seattle
Rookie Kayla Mills will make her NWSL debut on Saturday night against Seattle
Dennis Schneidler, DBJ Sports Photos

Sky Blue FC vs. Seattle Reign FC

Memorial Stadium; Seattle, Washington

April 15, 2017

10 p.m. ET

Watch: go90 app

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is finally here! The fifth historic season kicks off this weekend with Sky Blue FC once again opening on the road against Seattle Reign FC at Memorial Stadium. The action gets underway at 10 p.m. ET, and fans can watch the match live via NWSL’s streaming partner go90. Fans can also follow SBFC’s twitter account (@SkyBlueFC) for live updates of the game.

With expectations much higher than they were one year ago, Sky Blue FC has the potential to make the playoffs for the first time since the NWSL inaugural season. Despite being in much better shape compared to last season’s opener, there are still questions as to how well this squad will perform. Here are three things to look for in today’s season opener against the Reign:

1. Sam Kerr and the Offensive Line

Since the Australian international was traded to Sky Blue FC in 2014, Sam Kerr has been plagued with injuries. In two seasons, she has only played in 18 matches (15 starts), and yet still led the team in goals scored for the past two years. In her NWSL career, Kerr has tallied 36 goals and 11 assists in 59 appearances, and she’s only 23 years old. If Kerr can remain healthy this season, she can make a huge impact on the offensive front with her speed, physicality and technical ability with the ball.

Projected to play alongside Kerr in the starting line-up are England international Leah Galton and U.S. Women’s National Team allocated player Kelley O’Hara. Both players are exceptionally quick on the flanks with the ability to beat opponents 1v1 and have the field vision to pose a threat to any defense. This dynamic trio were unable to play together very often last season, but now fans will have an opportunity to see what this group can do at full strength.

The Sky Blue FC offense also has depth with Maya Hayes, Kim DeCesare and rookie McKenzie Meehan, as well as Tasha Kai once she returns to the pitch. Kai will begin the 2017 campaign on the 45-day disabled list after undergoing offseason procedures on both ankles.

2. The Midfield Battle

Once upon a time, Seattle Reign FC had arguably the best three-combo midfield in the NWSL with Welsh international Jessica Fishlock, Keelin Winters and Scottish international Kim Little. These three players were textbook as to how to play the #6, #8 and #10 roles in a 1-4-3-3 formation. However, the only player that SBFC will see tonight on the field is Fishlock. At the end of the 2016 season, Winters retired from professional soccer, and shortly after, the Reign announced Little’s transfer to Arsenal Ladies.

As a result, Sky Blue FC has a strong chance to win the midfield battle with 2016 NWSL Rookie of the Year Raquel Rodriguez, veteran Sarah Killion, and offseason signing Daphne Corboz. Rodriguez and Killion were extremely exciting to watch in the midfield last year, and after playing together for an entire season, the chemistry will only get stronger. As if those two weren’t enough, the addition of Corboz gives the midfield the triple-threat of discipline, control and strength on both sides of the ball. Veteran midfielders Nikki Stanton and Taylor Lytle will also provide depth in the midfield.

3. The Rookies

Sky Blue FC had an extremely strong 2017 NWSL Draft, and all eyes will be on 2016 NCAA College Cup champions Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman on the backline, and Canada international Kailen Sheridan in net. All three players come to the New Jersey club with impressive resumes, but they will be put to the test against the Reign in their opening debut. Captain Christie Rampone and second-year defender Erica Skroski are projected to join the three rookies to round out the starting defense to provide stability and experience