When Alyse LaHue was officially named general manager of Sky Blue FC recently, the only thing that seemed to change was her title.
While she joined the organization in 2018, LaHue has served as the team’s interim general manager since April. In the months that followed she has spent time working through a list of priorities as part of an effort to turn around the National Women’s Soccer League franchise that in recent years has struggled on and off the pitch.
Now, as the permanent general manager, LaHue continues moving forward with a host of initiatives. Chief among them is where Sky Blue FC will call home in 2020. Could it be Red Bull Arena? Might it be another location in the New York Metropolitan Area? Those answers will come in the weeks ahead.
In a recent interview with SleterFC.com, LaHue addressed several issues facing Sky Blue. In addition to the team’s home pitch, she also discussed player personnel and efforts to market the team to fans throughout the Tri-State Area.
SLETERFC.COM: What attracted you to Sky Blue when you joined the organization in 2018?
ALYSE LAHUE: I came here for (former head coach) Denise Reddy. I worked with her in Chicago (with the Red Stars) and she asked me to come and join the staff. At the time I was taking a break from soccer and working with the Seattle Storm in the WNBA. I was content out there and had moved out there not long before. Even though I declined (Reddy) was persistent. I became enthused by the idea of coming back to soccer. I also viewed Sky Blue as a project that I could be of some help with.
SFC.COM: There have been some improvements to the team. What has changed?
AL: The club has gone through a coaching change, which personally was very difficult for me being very close to Denise. Anytime you have a coaching change there is a shift in the environment for the players. In the front office, with me coming into my role as general manager and taking over the front office, culture for me is really important.
I want the staff here to feel empowered and to be really independent and know what a tremendous role they have with Sky Blue, in the league and women’s sports overall. I have to make sure the staff knows they are an important cog in the machine to push this forward. I have been lucky to be surrounded by an awesome staff that frankly works their asses off.
SFC.COM: What are the issues that are at the top of your priority list?
AL: The venue where the team plays is a big thing for me. I always had my sights set on playing a game at Red Bull Arena, which we were able to accomplish. As a result, we were able to smash Sky Blue’s previous attendance record. It was a tremendous day. My sights are set on 2020 and Red Bull Arena is a destination that is on our shortlist.
Once we have our venue set, it’s a domino effect and everything else will fall in line. Where we will train. Where the players will live full time. Where our front office will be. It’s imperative that we find the best environment for the club.
SFC.COM: What changes does the team need to make to the roster to continue improving?
AL: One of the things with this club is that we do not have a lot of off-field issues. Our players put in the work and get along with each other. They are very resilient and want to win games. We have a group of athletes that are fighting for the games for all the right reasons. That is how they go into every game and every day at training.
A big brunt of the work will come in the offseason. This year’s draft class is incredible and there are also rumors of expansion. So I think we will see some changes to our roster. I would like to be in playoff contention next season and we’ll build a roster to get there.
SFC.COM: What role do you see Carli Lloyd having with the team going forward?
AL: It comes down to how Carli feels. She has been incredible since coming back from the World Cup. She provides so much leadership on and off the field. She is from New Jersey and I think she would like to end her career with us. I expect her to be here unless she gets an NFL contract.
SFC.COM: There has been a great deal of talk recently about the opportunities for the team to grow and attract more fans. Can you provide some insight?
AL: I think what is exciting is that we are in a robust market. From the standpoint of our fans, we don’t need every family to come to every game. We’re of course happy to have them but it is not realistic to ask fans driving from New York City, Long Island or Connecticut to come to every game. If we can get them to come to one or two or three games that would be great.
SFC.COM: Are there plans to boost the team’s marketing efforts to raise Sky Blue’s profile throughout the New York Metropolitan Area?
AL: I really think that effort starts with raising the standard of our front office and being highly professional. Being in New York can be a blessing and a curse. We are in competition with several other entertainment opportunities in the region. There is a slew of major league and minor league sports teams in the area. We are also competing against them and popular destinations such as the Jersey Shore.
We also have to be smart about how we use our marketing dollars. Slapping our name on a billboard in Northern New Jersey will not have a big impact for us. We need to find ways to stretch our budget and reach people directly.
SFC.COM: In your time as interim GM and now general manager how supportive have team owners been?
AL: For me I would not have gone from interim general manager to general manager if I didn’t believe the owners were committed and willing to put resources into the team. I have been fairly demanding and have never been told no by the owners when I have gone to them with ideas of what the players needed. Their response has been “what does it cost and how do we get it done.” I speak to Tammy Murphy (owner representative) daily. I have also gone to the owners with some crazy ideas and expect them to say no. But they have worked to find ways to make things happen. They are here to see the club grow and support it to get to the next level.
SFC.COM: It seems as if the NWSL is in another period of growth and greater interest following the World Cup. Do you think this is temporary or something that is sustainable long-term?
AL: While it’s generally called the World Cup bounce, the tournament does create a great deal of media attention that women’s sports generally don’t receive. And the U.S. winning the World Cup is the icing on the cake. And that coverage continues after the World Cup with the victory tour, which also allows the players to extend their sponsorship deals.
It also drives interest in our games. Fans that may not have been willing to drive to our games now do so to see the players. I also think this is different from 2015. It feels more like a cultural change for women and women’s sports. There is a heightened awareness and the sponsors are taking notice. We now have to take that momentum and sustain it.