In the last six months there has been a lot written about Sky Blue FC. About the lack of proper facilities. About the mass of players wanting trades. About the foibles of ownership and the front office.
Though there is one person who has been largely left off the hook in all of this. A person who, by some accounts, may be as responsible as anyone for the downfall of the team.
Head coach Denise Reddy.
Over the last few months I have spoken with a number of sources connected to Sky Blue, most of whom requested to remain anonymous, for fear of retaliation. That includes several previous members of the Sky Blue’s staff as well as one person still with direct knowledge of the team. Each provided an independent account of how things reached their current state, and each identified Reddy as a significant source of concern.
That may be surprising to some. After all, for the past year, so much of the focus has been trained on the team’s general manager, Tony Novo, as well as the owners Phil Murphy and Steven Temares. Given the obvious issues at the higher levels of management, we’ve grown accustomed to buck-passing and a general lack of leadership. So much so that Reddy has seemingly been protected by the idea that all the dysfunction is coming from the higher levels.
But, I have been told by someone with direct knowledge, this is mistaken. The main reason Sam Kerr and other players are no longer with Sky Blue FC isn’t the lack of showers or other necessary upgrades to the facilities. It’s because of Denise Reddy.
Speaking directly of Kerr it was made clear that “she didn’t want to come back because of Denise [Reddy].”
And it’s not just Sam Kerr. If that was the only problem, maybe Reddy could still have build around other players. But I was told directly that Kelley O’Hara, Nikki Stanton, Leah Galton, Janine Beckie, Shea Groom, Katie Johnson, Amanda Frisbie, Christina Gibbons, Daphne and Rachel Corboz all refused to suit up while Reddy was the coach. And that doesn’t even cover the mass exit of the coaching staff over the last year due to Reddy helming the ship.
Everyone I spoke to to said that issues with Reddy created a difficult environment on top of the problems with the off-field work environment. Common issues were a “hard time communicating” with the head coach and how her style “made it very difficult for players to understand what their role was on the team and to understand if she took them out of the game, why.”
In nearly any other professional sport, a head coach amassing a record of 1 win, 17 losses and 6 draws over a 24 game season would be a virtual guaranteed sacking. Yet there have been hardly any calls for a new head coach in New Jersey. No introspection about game plan, tactics, or style, presumably because everyone’s eyes are constantly being draw away from the the mess on the field to the off-field garbage dump.
And maybe that’s where our attention should be trained. But there are enough problems here to pass the blame pretty widely around.
Going into the 2019 season, the team will likely be without both of their first round draft picks in Haley Mace and Julia Ashley. They will still be playing at Rutgers with the same missing accommodations that have been so relentlessly detailed. Their own supporter’s group is actively working on Twitter challenge the club to turn things around.
At what point does this all become performance art instead of a soccer team? At what point do the owners take responsibility, make the changes that are necessary by firing Novo and Reddy and replacing them with staff that will be able to do more within the confines of the club’s limited resources? And if they can’t do it, at what point do they acknowledge that this is a lost cause? At what point do even more players decide it’s simply not worth it?
I don’t have the answer but I hope they do figure it out before 2020 comes. If they can’t, they may end up in the trash bin of former NWSL teams.
At the time of this posting Sky Blue FC has not returned our request for comment.