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The Week in Women's Football: Sky Blue name coach; International NWSL draft

This week, Sky Blue FC names their Head Coach for 2016 and we review the 2016 NWSL College Draft.


Sky Blue FC of NWSL announced Christy Holly as head coach for the 2016 season on a nationwide media conference call on Wednesday, January 13.

Holly was the lead assistant to former head coach Jim Gabarra—now with the Washington Spirit—for three seasons.

Team President Tony Novo said that the team interviewed former professional team coaches, college coaches as well as coaches abroad and thought that Holly was best positioned to lead the club to success: “Christy Holly has truly earned this promotion with our club. Over the past three seasons, he has shown a tremendous dedication to Sky Blue FC, and he has always brought great energy and passion to everything he does. Christy has continually elevated himself both as a coach and a communicator, and we are beyond excited to enter this next chapter with him as our head coach."

Sky Blue FC co-owner Steven Temares explained: “We are thrilled to announce the promotion of Christy Holly to head coach of Sky Blue FC. Christy's character, leadership and experience with our team and the league, together with his inter-personal skills and training capabilities, make him the right coach for Sky Blue FC."

Sky Blue FC missed the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 and Holly said that his goal is to make the top four and qualify for the playoffs in 2016. Holly, a native of Derry, Northern Ireland, played in the Irish League with Limavady United of Derry and went to John Moores University in Liverpool.

Western New York Flash has not named a head coach for 2016. Aaron Lines, a native of New Zealand who was the head coach since the team began in the W-League as the Buffalo Flash in 2009, resigned last month and is now a Vice President of the club. Long-time W-League champion coach Charlie Naimo, who has been a team consultant for the last year, coordinated the college draft for the Flash.

With Holly's hire, there are now six coaches who were born outside of the United States in NWSL: including five from the U.K.—Holly from Northern Ireland, Tom Sermanni of Orlando from Scotland, three from England including Matt Beard of Boston, Mark Parsons of Chelsea and Laura Harvey of Seattle and Vlatko Andonovski of Kansas City from Macedonia, leaving only Randy Waldrum of Houston, Rory Daimes of Chicago and Jim Gabarra of Washington Spirit as native-born American coaches.

This international element in the coaching staff, with Harvey and Beard leaving FA WSL head coaching positions for the NWSL, will continue to help the league become a destination for top international players, despite not having the salary room of past leagues (Marta earned a rumored $500,000 annually in WPS).


The Portland Thorns selected U.S. National Team defender Emily Sonnett of the University of Virginia with the #1 draft pick of the 2016 NWSL Draft in Baltimore on January 15, 2016.

Along with the recent Thorns signing of U.S. National Team forward Lindsey Horan, reports are that high school senior and U.S. U-17 and U-20 star forward Mallory Pugh will forgo a full ride college scholarship at UCLA and turn pro with the Portland Thorns as a U.S. national team allocation. Pugh would be the first American player to bypass college and sign with an American professional league; Horan turned down a full ride at UNC a few years ago but had to go to France to play professionally.

(The first professional league—WUSA—stipulated that a player had to play four years in college or be old enough to have played four seasons, but there were few viable professional options abroad at the time and college soccer was a beacon for many top international players.) New coach Mark Parsons will have a wealth of talented youngsters to build around experienced Canadian international forward Christine Sinclair in an attempt to take the Thorns back to the playoffs, having missed out last season after winning the league crown in 2013.

Experienced women's soccer reporter and 2016 draft broadcaster Jen Cooper (on called this draft the most international of the four league college drafts held to date. Six internationals were among the 40 players selected including:

Raquel Rodriguez (Costa Rica) from Penn State (#2) to Sky Blue FC

Rachel Daly (England) from St. John's University (#6) to Houston Dash

Janine Beckie (Canada) from Texas Tech (#8) to Houston Dash

Leah Galton (England) from St. John's University (#13) to Sky Blue FC

Katie Bowen (New Zealand) from the University of North Carolina) (#16) to FC Kansas City

Candace Johnson (Panama through her mother) from the University of Missouri (#33) to Chicago Red Stars

Rodriguez, who played for Costa Rica in last summer's World Cup, won the MAC Hermann award as college soccer's best player in 2015. English youth international forward Rachel Daly, who finished the season with 19 goals and 5 assists in 20 games for St. John's University, played for Lincoln Ladies at home for two seasons. She was a first round pick by Houston.

Another English youth international, Hofstra forward Leah Galton, who spent time with Leeds United, had 12 goals and 6 assists in 19 games last season. She was selected in the second round by Sky Blue FC, who played at Rutgers University in Central New Jersey.


-- Round 1 --

No. 1 – Emily Sonnett – UVA (Portland Thorns FC)

No. 2 – Raquel Rodriguez – Penn State (Sky Blue FC)

No. 3 – Christen Westphal – U. of Florida (Boston Breakers)

No. 4 - Carson Pickett – Florida State (Seattle Reign FC)

No. 5 – Cari Roccaro – Notre Dame (Houston Dash)

No. 6 – Rachel Daly – St. John's Univ. (Houston Dash)

No. 7 – Cheyna Williams – FSU (Washington Spirit)

No. 8 – Janine Beckie - Texas Tech. (Houston Dash)

No. 9 – Michaela Hahn - Florida State University (WNY Flash)

No. 10 – Sam Witteman – UC Berkeley (Orlando Pride)

-- Round 2 --

No. 11 – Makenzy Doniak – UVA (WNY Flash)

No. 12 – Cali Farquharson – ASU (Washington Spirit)

No. 13 – Leah Galton – Hofstra (Sky Blue FC)

No. 14 – Mallory Weber – Penn State (WNY Flash)

No. 15 – Christina Burkenroad – Cal State Fullerton (Orlando Pride)

No. 16 – Katie Bowen – UNC (FC Kansas City)

No. 17 – Brittany Ratcliffe – UVA (Boston Breakers)

No. 18 – Brianne Reed - Rutgers (FC Kansas City)

No. 19 – Katie Naughton – Notre Dame (Chicago Red Stars)

No. 20 – Alli Murphy – Texas Tech (Washington Spirit)

-- Round 3 --

No. 21 – McKenzie Berryhill – ASU (Portland Thorns FC)

No. 22 – Sarah Gorden – DePaul (Chicago Red Stars)

No. 23 – Erica Skroski – Rutgers (Sky Blue FC)

No. 24 – Laura Liedle – Stanford (WNY Flash)

No. 25 – Paige Nielson – UNC (Seattle Reign FC)

No. 26 – Britt Eckerstrom – Penn State (WNY Flash)

No. 27 – Abby Smith – Texas (Boston Breakers)

No. 28 – Alexa Newfield – UNC (FC Kansas City)

No. 29 – Caroline Casey – William & Mary (Sky Blue FC)

No. 30 – Summer Green – UNC (Seattle Reign FC)

-- Round 4 --

No. 31 – Dani Weatherholt – Santa Clara (Orlando Pride)

No. 32 – Courtney Raetzman - Kentucky (Chicago Red Stars)

No. 33 – Janelle Flaws – Illinois (Chicago Red Stars)

No. 34 – Madalyn Schiffel – San Francisco (Washington Spirit)

No. 35 – Adrienne Jordan – No. Colorado (Chicago Red Stars)

No. 36 – Candace Johnson – Univ. of Missouri (Chicago Red Stars)

No. 37 – Kara Wilson – Duke (Washington Spirit)

No. 38 – Alex Arlitt – LSU (FC Kansas City)

No. 39 – Ashleigh Ellenwood – Arkansas (Chicago Red Stars)

No. 40 – Lindsey Luke – Utah (Seattle Reign FC)

Chicago Red Stars Reserves (WPSL) and the Washington Spirit Reserves (W-League), who both won their respective leagues last season, utilized their familiarity with players on their rosters during the NWSL draft. Chicago Red Stars selected Courtney Raetzman and Ashleigh Ellenwood from last summer's title winners, while Janelle Flaws played for the side in 2014.

Kara Wilson played for the Spirit Reserves for the last three seasons, while Sky Blue selection goalkeeper Caroline Casey led the Spirit Reserves to last season's title win over the Colorado Pride. Goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom (Western New York Flash) and Adrienne Jordan (Chicago Red Stars) played for the Pride last summer.

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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