WPS Sunday on FSC: New Jersey Homecoming
by Abby LePeilbet – Staff Report
04/09/2010 – 12:03 p.m.
After playing for the Chicago Red Stars last year, New Jersey native Carli Lloyd has returned to her old stomping grounds as a midfielder with Sky Blue FC. She will face her former team in the first televised game of 2010.
Carli Lloyd is home. After spending the inaugural WPS season with the Chicago Red Stars, the New Jersey native and Rutgers alumna will debut for Sky Blue FC when the 2009 WPS Champions host her former team on Sunday, April 11 on Fox Soccer Channel (6pm ET/3pm PT).
“It is a great feeling, never in a million years would I have thought I’d be back playing at Rutgers,” said Lloyd whose new team plays at Rutgers’ Yurcak Field. “There is nothing like being home. I was away in Chicago and it just wasn’t the same. When I came to play Sky Blue FC last year, I had a lot of fans still cheering for me in the New Jersey area and that to me is priceless. I’m a Jersey girl and I like being here.”
Lloyd signed on with Sky Blue FC as a free agent after she and the Chicago Red Stars parted ways following a mismatched 2009 season. The midfielder entered WPS’s inaugural year with tremendous expectations as she had just come off an Olympic gold medal year and received the U.S. Soccer’s 2008 Player of the Year award.
“Last year was tough for me,” recalled Lloyd. “I kind of hit some bumps in the road last year. Coming off an Olympic year, I guess I placed a little bit more pressure on myself and wanted to come in and do well in Chicago and unfortunately that really wasn’t the case.”
After tallying just two goals and one assist in 14 starts for the Red Stars, Lloyd decided to head home for a fresh start in 2010 with the New Jersey squad. In her homecoming, Lloyd has set out to improve her game and asserts that she is fitter than ever.
“It’s kind of ironic. I’m going to be kicking my former teammates on Sunday night,” Lloyd said jokingly about playing Chicago in her first match with Sky Blue FC. “But a game is a game, when I step out between those lines, I am there to win and forget everything else.”
Sky Blue FC midfielder Carli Lloyd gives an inside look into her move back to New Jersey and Sunday’s match against the Chicago Red Stars.
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Lloyd isn’t alone in making a homecoming on Sunday. The Chicago Red Stars’ Jillian Loyden, a native of Vineland, N.J., returns to the Garden State with a new role: #1 Goalkeeper.
Loyden joins Chicago after serving as the Saint Louis Athletica’s back-up goalkeeper to Hope Solo throughout 2009. The Red Stars were in a jam after their 2009 ‘keeper, Caroline Jönsson, asked for her release in the off-season and thus, negotiated a trade with the Athletica for Loyden in exchange for Lindsay Tarpley.
Sunday’s match has a unique twist for Loyden, as two of her three appearances in the 2009 season came against the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC. The Villanova alumna, earned WPS Player of the Week honors for her performance against the Red Stars in her WPS debut, while in her third appearance she posted a shutout against Sky Blue FC.
Whose homecoming will have a happy ending? Tune in to Fox Soccer Channel on Sunday at 6pm ET/3pm PT to find out.
Sky Blue FC lost its starting goalkeeper, Jenni Branam, to a broken kneecap when she collided with an opponent in a pre-season scrimmage earlier this week. Branam has been placed on the 60-day injured reserve list and is eligible to return to action on June 5. Karen Bardsley, a member of England’s National Team, will start in goal for Sky Blue FC against the Red Stars.
Sky Blue FC also enters Sunday’s match without its starting center backs: team captain, Christie Rampone, who recently gave birth to daughter Reece Rampone, and English international, Anita Asante who had knee surgery. Netherlands international Daphne Koster will add experience to the backline in their absence.
Tasha Kai will make a healthy return to Sky Blue FC after offseason shoulder surgery.
Kate Markgraf will lead the Chicago Red Stars backline after missing the 2009 season to give birth to twins. The first defender selected in the 2010 WPS Draft, Whitney Engen, will join her at center back.
Trading Places: Former Sky Blue FC midfielder Julianne Sitch will play for the Red Stars in 2010 after joining Chicago as a free agent.
Brazilian Connection: The Red Stars re-signed forward Cristiane, and look to heat up the connection between the goal-scorer and their midfield with free agent signing Formiga. Formiga is inactive this weekend but will join Cristiane on the field soon.
Sky Blue FC dominated the Chicago in 2009, posting a 3-0-1 record against the Red Stars who are still looking for their first goal against the New Jersey club.
Ladies Night: Chicago Red Stars Head Coach, Emma Hayes, and Sky Blue FC Head Coach, Pauliina Miettinen, face off as the only female head coaches in WPS.