A September Sky Blue Return?
Are more games coming, and are Pugh and Lloyd healthy and ready to go?
By Mike DeCicco @mdeci316
The NWSL is currently hard at work figuring out how to build upon the success of the Challenge Cup. As questions swirled regarding if and when the NWSL would continue in 2020, players began moving on to foreign leagues. On a busy Sunday, information began to circulate about a possible NWSL return plan.
According to Steven Goff, Sky Blue would be in Pod 1, which also includes Chicago and Washington. Chicago is fresh off a successful Challenge Cup run – losing to Houston in the championship. And the Spirit who were/are a team on the rise, suddenly find themselves without their star, as Rose Lavelle signed with Manchester City. Related, the Spirit traded her rights to OL Reign.
The tentative plan is for Sky Blue to begin play on September 5th in the DC area at Segra Field in Virginia vs the Spirt. Perhaps another match in Chicago on September 19th, and then another match day in Harrison on October 3rd . It is unclear, but plans for now have each club playing a couple matches with no clear playoff system to conclude the new slate. Still, it is exciting and surprising to think fans can get another SBFC match in a few weeks.
The immediate SBFC question - will Mal Pugh and/or Carli Lloyd be healthy to play any of the scheduled dates. No updates have been provided by either player, or by the club.
Carli Lloyd suffered a minor left knee injury in the off season prior to the Challenge Cup. According to a FIFA article released today, Carli has spent the last few months focusing on her physical and emotional health – taking the time for individual training, and taking time to relax and be happy with very little distractions. There have been no updates since late June when the injury was announced. At the time, Lloyd said she was optimistic about being able to play in the Challenge Cup. The FIFA article mentioned no setbacks regarding the injury, painted a generally positive picture of Lloyd’s last couple of months – but to be clear, the injury was not referenced.
Mal Pugh injured her right hip in an offseason workout. According to Jonathan Tannenwald, she was able to minimally train in the spring, but ultimately was unable to join SBFC for the Challenge Up. Hannah Withium recently wrote that the hip injury has been following Pugh since last fall when she was finishing the season with Washington. Pugh has also spent the last few months both in the gym, and on the practice field in her home state of Colorado working to strengthen her hip, and working to strengthen her game. Mal Pugh played minimal minutes for the US at the World Cup, and was recently left off the 20-player roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament. She is a highly-regarded player who will be looking to get back to the pitch to prove her greatness in the NWSL, and to USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski.
The Beez returned to individual training on Tuesday morning. No news regarding fall rosters, or the health of Pugh or Lloyd as of yet. However, it does seem very possible that both players could be playing soon. The return of these players has strong potential for the improving Sky Blue, and could provide offensive finishing, which was needed at times during the Challenge Cup.