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Gabarra happy with Sky Blue’s defensive depth

Kelley O'Hara has been an attacking force for Sky Blue FC in the preseason. (Photo copyright Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

Like all of the NWSL clubs, Sky Blue FC slogged through a rather disjointed preseason.  The team’s Mexican players arrived only recently after getting their visas squared away.  First round pick Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall did not join the team until finishing some schooling.  And of course the U.S. and Canadian internationals came late and then left again for separate friendlies.  Coach Jim Gabarra was looking forward to Friday’s training session when he was expecting the full squad to be together for the first time.

“I’m happy with it,” Gabarra said of the overall preseason process.  “Defending, I think we have a little bit of depth where most teams are at this point struggling looking for defenders or converting players to defending.  Goalkeeping I think we also have depth.”

They’ll need depth in goal.  Sky Blue were allocated Jill Loyden but she broke her hand and is probably about four weeks away from game action.  That leaves Brittany Cameron as the first choice keeper ahead of rookie Ashley Baker.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Cameron, who was a backup on the first place team in all three WPS seasons and starter on the WSL Elite champion Flash in 2012.  “I have plenty of experience training with all these great goalkeepers, but now I’m older and it’s my time now.  I’m ready.”

Baker, from Georgia, says she is ready to embrace the backup roll and said the best way for her to prepare is to make sure Cameron is prepared.

Gabarra said that Loyden’s return will give the club some roster flexibility but he did not rule out carrying all three keepers for the entirely of the season.

Star Watch: “I saw her up in Boston and she ran stride for stride with Sydney Leroux.”

That was part of Gabarra’s assessment of where Christie Ramone’s game is as she approaches her 38th birthday.  It will be tough for Rampone to outdo her 2009 heroics when she took over as player-coach with two games to play and led the team to the WPS championship, all while secretly pregnant with her second child.  But the national team captain still has game and is the leading light for Sky Blue both on and off the field.

“It’s a huge asset for us to have with her experience,” Gabarra continued.  “She certainly hasn’t lost a step and with age you don’t lose any of your leadership or organizational abilities.  That actually gets better.”

The team’s other allocated field player, Kelley O’Hara, will be playing in an attacking position for Sky Blue.  One of the more popular national team players, the affable O’Hara has a chance to be a regional sensation.

Potential Breakout Player:  At every turn this spring, Gabarra has been impressed by Katy Freels, an attacking midfielder who turned heads in WPSL Elite last season playing under her maiden name Katy Frierson.  The Alabama native turned 23 this week and has a chance to be one of the breakout stars in all of NWSL. [More on Katy Freels’ journey ]

Coaching Factor: Gabarra will become the only coach to participate in all seven seasons of top flight women’s professional soccer.  He was the first coach to win a WUSA match with the Washington Freedom in 2001.  He also won the last WUSA match when the Freedom won the championship in 2003.

Gabarra’s best trait is his patience.  He has traditionally mapped out a plan and stuck with it.  It worked out beautifully in WUSA and looked like it was going well in WPS when the Freedom were sold and became magicJack, which led Gabarra to Sky Blue in 2011.

Sky Blue may not have the most talented roster in NWSL but they don’t figure to fail because of their coach.

Gabarra still has not set a lineup for opening day.  He still has a few more sessions with the team to sort out who will go where.  But nothing that happened during training camp has changed his perspective that Sky Blue FC is off to a good start in NWSL.

Off the Field: Never the best supported club in WPS, Sky Blue took the interesting decision to go dormant in 2012 before returning to join NWSL.  In their absence the club partnered with the New Jersey Wildcats of the W-League and installed Gabarra as head coach.  Will they be able to attract enough local attention to become sustainable?

Some ominous signs.  As of last week the club had not formalized anything regarding webcasts of home matches.  And on the popular message board site BigSoccer, a recent perusal showed that the other seven teams all had forum activity over the most recent 48 hours.  Sky Blue’s last post was three weeks ago.

Roster:

No. Player Pos. Ht. Birthdate Hometown College
9 Danesha Adams FWD 5’6” 6/6/1986 West Covina, CA UCLA
20 Ashley Baker GK 5’10” 3/15/1990 Lilburn, GA Georgia
10 Brittany Bock MID 5’7” 4/11/1987 Naperville, IL Notre Dame
13 Melanie Booth DEF 5’9” 8/24/1984 Burlington, Ontario, Canada Florida
1 Brittany Cameron GK 5’8” 12/3/1986 Dublin, CA San Diego
11 Lisa De Vanna FWD 5’2” 11/14/1984 Perth, Australia —–
4 Caitlin Foord DEF 5’5” 11/11/1994 Lake Illawarra, Australia —–
23 Katy Freels (Frierson) MID 5’6” 4/8/1990 Homewood, AL Auburn
2 CoCo Goodson DEF 5’11” 6/19/1990 Ramona, CA UC Irvine
5 Kendall Johnson DEF 5’5” 4/24/1991 Portland, OR Portland
18 Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall DEF 5’10” 10/18/1990 Park City, UT BYU
21 Jill Loyden GK 5’10” 6/25/1985 Vineland, NJ Villanova
6 Taylor Lytle MID 5’2” 3/31/1989 Las Cruces, NM Texas Tech
22 Manya Makoski MID 5’4” 4/18/1984 Trumbull, CT Arizona State
8 Monica Ocampo FWD 5’1” 1/4/1987 Tehuixtla Morelos, Mexico —–
19 Kelley O’Hara FWD 5’5” 8/4/1988 Fayetteville, GA Stanford
3 Christie Rampone DEF 5’6” 6/24/1975 Manasquan, NJ Monmouth
7 Nayeli Rangel MID 5’7” 2/28/1992 Guadalupe, Monterrey, Mexico —–
16 Sophie Schmidt MID 5’7” 6/28/1988 Abbotsford, BC, Canada Portland
25 Madeleine Thompson DEF 5’8” 4/24/1991 Corvallis, OR Stanford

Head Coach: JIM GABARRA
Assistant Coach: ERWIN VAN BENNEKOM
Goalkeeper Coach: NATE KIPP
Head Athletic Trainer: LEANDRA PRICE
Equipment Manager: DAVID JONES
Team Administrator: MIKE MULDOON

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