As Sky Blue FC dominated the run of play Wednesday night en route to a 2-0 win over FC Gold Pride, it was hard to imagine that this team just went through yet another drama-filled week that resulted in a break-up with its second coach in just a few, short months.
The Blues came out playing high-pressure soccer with the intensity of a playoff team. Rosana’s 46th minute goal and Natasha Kai’s 61st minute tally brought about team hugs and giddy celebrations in front of a sellout crowd of 5,455 at Yurcak Field in New Jersey. If there was any turmoil within the team from the fall-out of Assistant Coach Joe Dorini’s Head Coach Kelly Lindsey’s departure from the team last Wednesday, it certainly didn’t show.
Interim Head Coach and defender Christie Rampone clearly had her side organized along with the help of new Assistant Coach Mike Lyons, and Rampone seemed more than willing to take on the extra responsibilities of being a player/coach.
In an interview with The Equalizer on Saturday, Sky Blue FC General Manager Gerry Marrone said he could think of no better person to step in and fill the role that the club has asked Rampone to take on.
“I could not be happier with what we have now, not because I would choose to have that, but based on the situation we were in and the solution we came up with, I couldn’t be happier with our solution,” Marrone said. “From my perspective there is no person I would rather have at the helm right now for the situation we are in and what this team has gone through than Christie.”After Wednesday night’s win over FC Gold Pride, a smiling Rampone was happy to talk about her new role as a coach, and how she handled coaching on the fly from the field.”
I think it’s definitely a little different as a coach,” she said. “You’re thinking about some changes you’re going to make as well as playing my role and making sure everyone’s playing with confidence and trying to decide what formation we might have to change into if things are working out, but I think we weathered the storm in the first half.”
Rampone also said that substitutions were talked about between her and Lyons beforehand, and the two had particularly good communication at halftime. Clearly, they did well to bring in midfielder Collette McCallum in the 61st minute, who tallied an assist on a beautiful through ball to Kai. She had checked in for Kelly Parker, who also enjoyed acres of space on the flank against FC Gold Pride’s defense, but could not find a way to deliver that final dangerous ball into the box as often as she needed to.
As a captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team and Sky Blue FC, Rampone’s leadership abilities are unquestionable. She has a knack for the game and is the exact type of player – a smart, composed, hard-working defender – that would go on to make a great coach one day. It just so happens that she is being called into that duty early.
Marrone wasn’t kidding though. Rampone really seems to be the best possible fit for such a chaotic situation. Exactly what happened in New Jersey last week still remains unclear with neither Lindsey or Dorini talking and Sky Blue management looking to move on.
What is clear is that Sky Blue FC is moving forward with what it has: An intelligent player that’s well-respected by her teammates and now has to step up to fill an even larger role.
“Christie is amazing and I love her to death,” Kai said. “She’s like my second mom. I live with her, so she is just an amazing person, an amazing player and an amazing friend and I look up to her so much and she’s a big part of my life and I’m just so happy for her.”
Even through all that they have endured this season, Rampone and her Sky Blue FC teammates could very well find themselves in the playoffs. Three points against Washington on Saturday would secure that regardless of any other results and the dismissal of Ian Sawyers, the resignation of Kelly Lindsey, and the poor start to the season (one win in the first seven) could all be forgotten.
“After all that has happened this year, we are just proving everyone wrong,” Kai said. “We have each other and we knew that we had each other from the start of this season and it doesn’t matter who comes and goes as our coaches, as long as we look to the left and look to the right of us and know that we have each others backs.”
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