Sky Blue found out who its allocated U.S. National team and International team players were on Friday after an announcement from US Soccer and the National Womens Soccer League.
The players Sky Blue were allocated are; from the United States, midfielder and defender Kelley O’Hara, National team captain Christine Rampone, and goalkeeper Jillian Loyden. From Canada the players are defender Melanie Booth and midfielder Sophie Schmidt. The Mexican national players are forward Monica Ocampo and midfielder Nayeli Rangel.
“Being allocated seven players from three national teams truly establishes the foundation of our roster,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra stated. “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 returns to Sky Blue after playing two years with them in the WPS. She was part of the team’s Championship run in 2009 when she took over as player/coach for the playoff run. According to Coach Gabarra, “It goes without saying that Christie is one of the best leaders and defensive organizers in the game. It is great to have her back in a Sky Blue FC jersey.”
Loyden is a Vineland native who played for Jersey Sky Blue, the team’s name when played in the W-League before moving over to the WPS. “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,” says Coach Gabarra.
O’Hara had long been on the U.S. National Team radar before making her way onto the senior club in 2010, first making an impression on the U-17, U-20 and U-23 sides before the call-up. The former Georgia high school standout played her collegiate soccer at Stanford University, reaching the NCAA College Cup following her junior and senior campaigns. The Georgia native was just one of three players (Rampone, Solo) to play every minute of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games, leaving London with a Gold Medal around her neck. Coach Gabarra welcomes O’Hara. “Kelley is a versatile dynamic soccer player. She will provide us an excellent attacking player that can play on the flank as well as at left back.”
Looking at the Canadian players, there seems to be a nice fit for Sky Blue. Melanie Booth made her Olympic Games debut in 2012 and captured bronze with the women’s national team in London. The defender joined the senior national team in 2002 at the age of 17. Booth’s professional career has had stops in the Women’s Premier League with Tampa Bay and in the USL W-League with the Boston Renegades, and with her latest team, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Midfielder Sophie Schmidt is a 2012 Olympic Games bronze medalist and has been a member of the senior national team of Canada since 2007. She appeared in all three matches for Canada at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup (scoring a goal), started all four matches at the 2008 Olympic Games, and won a 2011 Pan American Games gold medal. She captained the Canadian Under-20 team at the 2006 FIFA World Championships in Russia.
Lastly, but not insignificant, are the two Mexican national team players. Midfielder Nayeli Rangel was born in Febraury 1992. In addition to her caps with the senior women’s Mexican National Team, she started three games at the 2011 Women’s World Cup. She played for Mexico in the U-20 Women’s World Cup in its editions in 2008, 2010, 2012.
Forward Mónica Ocampo has over 40 national team caps for Mexico, including scoring the goal in a 1-1 draw in the opening game against England in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, and has played in the U.S. for FC Indiana (from 2006-09) and signed with the Atlanta Beat of WPS in 2010.
According to Coach Gabarra, “Part of the allocation process that cannot be overlooked or undervalued is the partnership provided by the Canadian and Mexican Federations. 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 field for Sky Blue FC and the NWSL.”
Admittedly, I was not as excited about the fact that Sky Blue did not get a super star like Alex Morgan or our own Heather O’Reilly, or even Carli Lloyd, but I believe keeping Rampone and the addition of Kelley O’Hara who I thought had the best tournament of all the U.S. National players, can’t be a bad start for the 2013 year. When you add in one of the best forwards in Ocampo and a rough and in your face player like Schimdt, then Sky Blue squad has the makings of a team that can get themselves into a playoff run.