Sky Blue FC hands GM reigns to LaHue, finally hires (interim) coach

Some semblance of normalcy has finally fallen on Sky Blue FC, the much-maligned NWSL team based in New Jersey.

On Tuesday, it announced that Alyse LaHue, credited with the successful promotion of two post-Women's World Cup matches, had been named general manager, removing the interim tag she held since she took over for Tony Novo, who resigned as president and general manager on the eve of the 2019 NWSL season in April.

On Wednesday, Freya Coombe was named head coach. The Englishwoman will wear an interim tag, but that's better than the situation had been. Sky Blue had been operating without a head coach since Denise Reddy left at the end of June. Goalkeeper coach Hugo Macedo had been running the team.

On the new staff, Macedo will return to concentrating on his goalkeeping duties  while Russian Iouri Vichniakov, a veteran of the New Jersey coaching scene, was hired to serve as both an assistant coach and development advisor. Marcia McDermott, a veteran of coaching and executive positions on teams in WUSA and WPS, will serve as a technical advisor.

Bad image. In 2018, Sky Blue FC was the subject of many unflattering stories about poor working and housing conditions for its players, and what its ownership group led by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy and Novo were doing (or not doing) about it.

Early in 2019, Sky Blue FC's top two College Draft picks -- No. 2 pick Hailie Mace and No. 6 pick Julia Ashley -- chose the sign for teams in Sweden rather than play for Sky Blue FC.

Rays of hope. But the last two months have seen for the first time some rays of hope shine on the NWSL's New Jersey outfit.

Under Reddy, Sky Blue FC won once in 33 matches -- the final game of the 2018 season -- but it is 4-4-2 since her departure after starting the 2019 season with a record of 0-7-2.

Sky Blue FC averaged just 1,500 fans a game for its first six matches of the 2019 season at Rutgers University's Yurcak Field, but set a record for its highest home attendance in the NWSL when it sold out Yurcak Field with a crowd of 5,003 for its match against Washington on July 24.

LaHue endeared herself to fans by going out and buying eight coolers and making a beer run to a local grocery store to buy enough beer to fill the coolers for fans to drink at a makeshift beer garden after they were unable to purchase beer during the Washington game at Yurcak Field, where Rutgers' liquor license has expired.

Anticipating another sellout for its match against Reign FC on Aug. 18, Sky Blue FC moved the game to Red Bull Arena, where it drew 9,415 fans. Sky Blue FC is one of five NWSL teams who have broken their single-game attendance record since the return of the U.S. world champions from the World Cup.

Uncertain future. Sky Blue FC's future remains uncertain. In the face of the need for increasing investment across the league, the long-term commitment of its ownership group is unknown. Its location in Piscataway is not idle, but finding an affordable home in either New York or Philadelphia, the two metropolitan areas it draws fans from, isn't easy.
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