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Sky Blue FC vs Utah Royals FC: How to watch and match preview

Sky Blue close out their 2018 series against the NWSL’s newest franchise Saturday night.

Carli Lloyd is back for Sky Blue FC after serving a one-game red card suspension.
Tom Salus, Once a Metro

Sky Blue FC v Utah Royals FC

Yurcak Field, Rutgers University, Piscataway Township, N.J.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

6:30 p.m. ET

Watch: NWSLSoccer.com/NWSL app

Sky Blue FC (0-14-4, 4 points) host the NWSL’s newest franchise, Utah Royals FC (7-7-7, 28 points), on Saturday night at Yurcak Field.

The game marks the third and final time the two teams will face off this year, with the Royals winning each of the previous two meetings (2-1 on June 2 at Yurcak, and 3-1 on June 30 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah).

Although Sky Blue have already been eliminated from playoff contention, Laura Harvey’s seventh-place Royals will be trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. A win on the road in New Jersey is imperative for that to happen. The Royals currently trail the fourth-place Orlando Pride by only two points.

With the Pride and fifth-place Chicago facing the No. 1 North Carolina Courage and the No. 3 Portland Thorns FC respectively this weekend, a Utah win and favorable results in those matches could see the Royals jump into the highly coveted fourth and final playoff spot.

On the other hand, a draw or loss will prevent the Royals from cracking the top half of the league standings this weekend, making it much more difficult to advance to the postseason.

A bright spot for the Royals, and possibly some Sky Blue fans as well, is the injury report, which sees U.S. defender Kelley O’Hara upgraded to questionable status after being sidelined with a hamstring strain back suffered back in May. That means O’Hara will likely at least travel with the Royals back to Yurcak Field, where she played with Sky Blue for five seasons.

The match will be the first time U.S. forward Christen Press will play at Yurcak this year, as she was playing abroad in Sweden during the two teams’ previous meeting in New Jersey.

Sky Blue did not escape the injury report as lucky. Four of the team’s seven defenders are included on the injury report, with Erica Skroski (excused absence) and Rebekah Stott (lower back strain) listed as out. Although Mandy Freeman and Christina Gibbons are listed as questionable, both have picked up hamstring strains of their own. That means that Domi Richardson and Amanda Frisbie will likely start on the backline, while the other two defenders are more uncertain.

If head coach Denise Reddy wants to push for Sky Blue’s first win of the season, then Freeman and/or Gibbons could potentially start. However, with Sky Blue’s playoff hopes long over, the more conservative (and probably smarter) move would to not risk further injury and start with Freeman and Gibbons on the bench.

Reddy has played both Madison Tiernan and Jen Hoy at outside back at some time during 2018, and the door could also be open for rookie Amandine Pierre-Louis, a dynamic and versatile defender during her time at West Virginia, to make her professional debut.

Sky Blue will have back the services of captain Carli Lloyd though, who had to sit out last week’s contest due to a red-card suspension.

INJURY REPORT

Sky Blue FC

OUT: Shea Groom (concussion protocol), Erica Skroski (excused absence), Rebekah Stott (lower back strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Mandy Freeman (right hamstring strain), Christina Gibbons (right hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None

Utah Royals FC

OUT: Alex Arlitt (left knee strain-SEI), Makenzy Doniak (left knee ACL tear-SEI), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion-SEI)
QUESTIONABLE: Kelley O’Hara (right hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None