Gabarra led the Freedom to the WPS Playoffs in each of the past two seasons (Photo by Tony Quinn, ISI Photos).
Rick Stainton Remains on Board as Assistant Coach
Sky Blue FC of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) announced today the hiring of Jim Gabarra as the Head Coach/Technical Director of the team. Also being made official is that Rick Stainton will remain on board with the 2009 WPS Champions, taking over the role of assistant coach for the upcoming season of play.
“I expect to build a team that will make the area very proud, and I’m excited about the challenge,” Gabarra said of taking over the New Jersey based club. “It’s going to be an interesting year that will involve some change, yet we will make our decisions with positive results as the goal. Obviously, I went through a lot of change myself in leaving a place I’ve been for the past 10 years, but change is good. I’m excited about the possibilities here with Sky Blue FC.”
Gabarra spent the past 10 years with the Washington Freedom, and he was the only coach to lead his team to the playoffs in each of the first two WPS seasons. He began his tenure in Washington in 2001, leading the Freedom to back-to-back appearances in the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) Championship Game in both the 2002 and 2003 campaigns. After winning the 2003 league title in what became the final year of WUSA, Gabarra continued the success in Washington into the USL W-League. He again reached the pinnacle of the sport when he led the Freedom to the 2007 W-League Championship, also being named the W-League Coach of the Year. After most recently advancing to the playoffs in consecutive WPS seasons, Gabarra stepped down from his position in Washington, making the highly successful coach available for the first time in over a decade.
“When we had the opportunity to pursue someone like Jim Gabarra, with his experience and knowledge, I thought it was a tremendous opportunity for us,” said Stainton, who took over as head coach when Pauliina Miettinen was removed from the position midway through this past season. “From day one, I always said that I want what is best for this team and our players, and I am sincere in that statement. We are fortunate to have someone with the experience that Jim has at the helm, and I personally consider myself fortunate to be able to assist him. These are exciting times for Sky Blue FC, and I look forward to what the future holds.”
Sky Blue FC President Thomas Hofstetter was quick to acknowledge the importance of having Stainton on board with the team.
“We are extremely grateful to Rick in that he was willing to help us in a very difficult situation this season,” Hofstetter stated. “Rick is a coach any team would be privileged to have on its team, and I am personally very happy that he will continue to be a great asset for our organization.”
With Stainton and Gabarra both on staff, General Manager Gerry Marrone shared his excitement about the direction of Sky Blue FC.
“When the 2010 season concluded, we were already comfortable in terms of our coaching situation,” he commented. “Then a proven winner in Jim Gabarra unexpectedly became available to us, and we saw it as an opportunity to improve our team. We knew that we must respond in a reactionary way when opportunity came knocking on our door, and it is very pleasing to see everything with Jim come together so quickly. Having both Jim and Rick here to lead our team puts us into a very exciting position as we set our sights on bringing the WPS Championship back to New Jersey in 2011.”
As a player, Gabarra capped 14 times for the U.S. National Team from 1986-1989, including his playing in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. The Key West native also enjoyed a prolific career in professional indoor soccer and served as captain of the U.S. National Futsal Team from 1986-1996. He originally began his professional playing career outdoors in 1982 when he debuted with the Detroit Express of the American Soccer League (ASL), winning a league championship in his first season of play. The Connecticut College Hall of Fame member then took his game indoors in 1984 with the Louisville Thunder, making successful stops with multiple clubs from then until 1993, also taking his first crack at coaching on the indoor platform.
Gabarra has since found his greatest successes while coaching at the highest level of the women’s game, and he finds the hardships that come with that position quite motivating.
“Our league is very challenging,” he stated. “It’s tough to coach, it’s tough to play, and it’s tough to win games. What we have to look forward to here in New Jersey is a fresh start, while we also know the team was just a game away from making the playoffs this past year. Reaching the postseason in WPS is not easy to do, but I think we must have high expectations for ourselves. The fans are paying good money for their tickets, and it is very important for us to put a good product on the field. We must be focused on giving the fans something that they will be proud to support.”
With the 2011 season slated for an April kickoff, Sky Blue FC currently has season tickets on sale now. Winners of the inaugural WPS Championship in 2009, the team plays its home matches at Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Anyone interested in purchasing season tickets for the upcoming year of play can call 1-888-SBFC-TIX today.