Following an extensive search, Sky Blue FC announced Christy Holly as the club’s new head coach on Wednesday. Holly had been handling player personnel since former coach Jim Gabarra stepped down in October and was an assistant under Gabarra during the club’s first three seasons in NWSL.
“I’m very thankful to Steve Temares, Phil Murphy, and Tony Novo for going through the interview process with me and ultimately presenting me with this very exciting opportunity,” Holly said referencing Sky Blue’s co-owners and general manager respectively. “It’s absolutely a privilege and an honor for me and it’s something I’m very excited about.”
Sky Blue has missed the playoffs the last two seasons and has had little roster movement since the end of the regular season. The club holds the No. 3 pick in Friday’s college draft. Despite static roster, Holly said work has been done behind the scenes to prepare for the start of the season in April.
“As we move forward there are many things we need to implement prior to our preseason,” the Irishman said. “We’ve been working very hard behind the scenes for a number of months to ensure that on the first game of the season we’re at 100% and we’re ready to give the fans everything they expect.”
Holly believes that roster depth and health will be pivotal in reaching his goal of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. “I felt that last season we have a very, very strong starting 11 when we got them on the field. Unfortunately, injuries and World Cup became an issue. With that in mind the roster that I’m looking to build will have a little more bounce about it from the first player to the last player. That will allow us to have impactful subs coming off the bench and will allow us to have impactful personnel coming on the field when we need them if we have players out injured.
The new coach added that the style Sky Blue played near the end of last season, when they had their most success, is on course with how he would like the team to play.
“I would very much would prefer to play a very exciting, progressive brand of soccer that involves us playing a majority of our game within the final third,” Holly said. “The type of players we’re looking for are players that are extremely technical and have a very good tactical understanding of the game and are able to play it in an efficient manner. There are obviously games, going back to Seattle in the second half of last season. We were able to in the first half play very possession-oriented style of soccer. In the second half we had to batten down the hatches a little bit.”
One roster question mark was answered earlier Wednesday when Christie Rampone was allocated by U.S. Soccer to play the 2016 with Sky Blue. Rampone has said it is her intention to play for Sky Blue this year even if she is unable to be on the Olympic team.
The hiring of Holly brought something of a collective sigh from Sky Blue fans who have waited nearly three months to find out the identity of their next coach. Temares denied a report that multiple coaches had turned down the position before it was ultimately offered to Holly.
“We explored former head coaches in the league, former assistants in the league, coaches who have coached overseas, college coaches,” Temares said. “Ultimately after reviewing all the candidates we really concluded that based upon substance and merit rather than appearance that Christy without a doubt was the correct choice for Sky Blue. We never offered the position to anybody else.”
“We did have a delay in making that decision but we wanted to be thorough in our search and our due diligence,” Novo said. “I believe that Christy Holly is the man that is going to lead Sky Blue into its next chapter.”
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