January 11, 2013
THE ORIGINAL SEVEN
Sky Blue starts building its team as NJ-based side needs to bulk up its attack
After Friday's allocation of players, there is little doubt what Sky Blue FC needs to do -- bolster its attack.
Sky Blue began building its roster for the National Women's Soccer League season as seven players were allocated to the team, including only one forward.
The biggest name was U.S. national team captain and veteran defender Christie Rampone, who was a key figure for the team during its championship run in Women's Professional Soccer in 2009. Rampone was named player-coach late in the season and guided the tea to the league's first championship.
Other players allocated to Sky Blue were U.S. backup goalkeeper Jill Loyden and fullback Kelley O'Hara, Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt and defender Melanie Booth and Mexican forward Monica Ocampo and midfielder Lydia Rangel.
"Being allocated seven players from three national teams truly establishes the foundation of our roster," Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra said "A lot of anxiousness has surrounded the process as we waited to see which players we would receive, and this is officially the starting point for building our team. Next steps for us are the College Draft and free agency, but we now have some clarity on which moves to make in building a competitive team."
Rampone, a Point Pleasant, N.J. resident, has been the U.S. captain since 2008 and has accumulated over 275 caps. She has played in four Women's World Cups, hoisting the championship trophy in 1999. She also won the gold medal in three of the four Olympic Games in which she has participated.
"It goes without saying that Christie is one of the best leaders and defensive organizers in the game," Gabarra said. "It is great to have her back in a Sky Blue FC jersey."
Loyden, a Vineland, N.J. native, played for Jersey Sky Blue (W-League) before the club became professional. She earned her way into the U.S. National Team picture in 2010. The Villanova University product became the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Red Stars in 2010 after suiting up for a season alongside Hope Solo with St. Louis Athletica. She played all three seasons that WPS was in operation.
"Jill is a top goalkeeper in this allocation and will give us a solid starter for the season. Her game has matured and developed to the point where she is ready to be the number one in the NWSL," Gabarra said.
O'Hara had long been on the U.S. National Team radar before making her way onto the senior team in 2010, first making an impression on the Under-17, U-20 and U-23 sides before the call-up. The former Florida high school standout played at Stanford University, reaching the NCAA College Cup in her junior and senior seasons. After leading the Cardinal to the national championship in 2008, O'Hara capped off her college career with 26 goals and 13 assists her senior year to win the 2009 Hermann Trophy.
She was the third overall selection in the 2010 WPS Draft and helped FC Gold Pride to the league title that season. She played for the Boston Breakers in 2011, totaling 10 goals over two seasons. The Georgia native was one of three U.S. players (Rampone, Solo) to play every minute of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games, leaving London with a gold medal.
"Kelly is a versatile dynamic soccer player," Gabarra said. "She will provide us an excellent attacking player that can play on the flank as well as at left back."
Ocampo, 26, has more than 40 caps for Mexico, including a goal in a 1-1 draw in the opening game against England in the 2011 Women's World Cup. She has played in the U.S. for FC Indiana (from 2006-09) and signed with the Atlanta Beat of WPS in 2010.
Rangel, who turns 21 in February, has played in the 2011 WWC. She started three games at the 2011 Women's World Cup. She played for Mexico in the U-20 WWC in its editions in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Booth made her Olympic Games debut in 2012 and captured bronze with Canada. The defender joined the senior national team in 2002 at 17. Booth won a silver medal with Canada at the 2002 FIFA U-20 WWC in Edmonton, where she played every minute of her team's six matches. Booth also had an outstanding career playing for the University of Florida. Booth's professional career has included stops in the Women's Premier League with Tampa Bay and in the USL W-League with the Boston Renegades and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Schmidt, another Olympic bronze medalist, and has been a member of the Canadian senior side since 2007. She appeared in all three matches for Canada at the 2007 WWC, scoring a goal, and started all four matches at the 2008 Olympic Games. She also won a 2011 Pan American Games gold medal. Schmidt captained the Canadian U-20 team at the 2006 world championships in Russia.
"Part of the allocation process that cannot be overlooked or undervalued is the partnership provided by the Canadian and Mexican Federations," Gabarra said. "The Canadian players will add an experienced and competitive element that is needed in every team. The Mexican players will bring creativity and hard work that is also necessary in putting a good product on the filed for Sky Blue FC and the NWSL."
Several New Jersey-based players who are U.S. international midfielders were glaringly missing from the Sky Blue allocations, including Lloyd (Delran, N.J.), Heather O'Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.) and Tobin Heath (Basking Ridge, N.J.).
Lloyd, who scored both U.S. goals in its 2-1 Olympic gold-medal triumph over Japan, was allocated to the Western New York Flash along with FIFA women's world player of the year Abby Wambach. O'Reilly was sent to the Boston Breakers, with whom she was supposed to play in Women's Professional Soccer before the league went under last year. Heath will play for the Portland Thorns FC.