Yurcak Field, Rutgers University, Piscataway Township, N.J.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
7:00 p.m. ET
Watch: go90.com/app (U.S. fans); NWSLsoccer.com/NWSL app (international fans)
Sky Blue FC (0-6-1, 1 point) will host Seattle Reign FC (4-2-2, 14 points) on Saturday for the second meeting for the two teams at Yurcak Field this year, closing out the teams’ three-game series for 2018.
Even with the third and final meeting between the two teams yet to be played, Seattle has already been crowned victors of the three-game series, having defeated Sky Blue 1-0 in its home opener on April 15, followed by a more dominant 4-1 win in Seattle on May 12. They will look to complete the sweep on Saturday, while Sky Blue will hope to finally earn their first win of the season.
That will be no easy feat against an opponent like the Reign, especially with two-time NWSL Championship-winning coach Vlatko Andonovski now at the helm. He has since rebuilt his successor Laura Harvey’s team to be one that matches his style, and he has a number of dangerous players in his arsenal to unleash against his opponents.
One of the most dangerous of those is Megan Rapinoe. The veteran attacker went on a scoring tear for both club and country in 2017, putting her the NWSL Golden Boot and MVP race for much of the season until a knee injury sidelined her for part of the season.
However, she’s in that same goal-scoring form in 2018, already having tallied four goals—currently tied for second-most goals this season, just one goal shy of league leader Christine Sinclair—and an assist in five appearances. Three of those goals were against Sky Blue, including the two game winners. Her two-goal performance against Sky Blue on May 12 also earned her league Player of the Week honors.
Rapinoe was on the bench for Seattle’s midweek loss to the Houston Dash, but if she’s back in Seattle’s XI (as one can only assume she will be) then she will be even deadlier with a fresh pair of legs.
But Rapinoe isn’t the only player Sky Blue’s defense has to worry about. There’s also English-international Jodie Taylor, her return to the NWSL after a two-season hiatus, who has three goals on the season. When Rapinoe and she are together on the field, Rapinoe often draws attackers to her, freeing up Taylor in front of goal.
Taylor also has the tenacity to pressure defenders and goalkeepers, forcing mistakes or turnovers that she will then pounce on. That characteristic makes her increasingly dangerous against Sky Blue, whose injuries and lack of defensive depth have recently left them weak in the back.
The Reign also have USWNT midfielder Allie Long, new to the team this year following five seasons at their rival Portland, and Beverly Yanez, one of the most underrated attacking players in the league. Seattle’s two Japanese internationals—Nahomi Kawasumi and Rumi Utsugi—are also forces on the ball capable of scoring themselves while especially dangerous when serving up opportunities for their teammates.
As for Sky Blue, well...they’re struggling. On both sides of the ball. There have been flashes of greatness so far this season, though. Katie Johnson scored a brace against the Houston Dash on May 5, tying her with Savannah McCaskill for club leader in goals, Carli Lloyd finally found the back of the net with a rocket of a free kick last weekend against the Courage for her first goal in a Sky Blue kit, and Janine Beckie looked the best she has all season Wednesday night against the Washington Spirit.
But even with all of that, they only have five goals total on the season, one fewer than Rapinoe by herself. Sky Blue’s midfielders will have to do a better job of linking up with their orwards—usually some combination of Johnson, Beckie, McCaskill, and Shea Groom—to create and finish opportunities on goal. No small task against the Reign midfield and defense.
And Sky Blue’s defense will once again be hampered with injuries. Although Christina Gibbons was removed from this weekend’s injury list, Rebekah Stott is still listed as questionable as she continues dealing with a nagging groin strain, although she did play through it for a full 90 on Wednesday night.
Erica Skroski, whose ability to switch between outside and center back seems paramount to Sky Blue’s defense, has also been listed as questionable after picking up a right hamstring strain against the Spirit.
Sky Blue FC
QUESTIONABLE: Erica Skroski (right hamstring strain), Rebekah Stott (right groin strain)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None
Seattle Reign FC
OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness), Jaycie Johnson (right knee sprain - D45), Megan Oyster (left knee sprain)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None