July 18, 2019 | 74° F

NWSL club utilizes Rutgers connections for ‘Scarlet Knight’

Photo by Noah Whittenburg |

Former Rutgers forward Jonelle Filigno did not have to travel far to begin her pro career with Sky Blue FC. She has made two appearances thus far.

When Sky Blue FC takes to Yurcak Field next Wednesday against the Chicago Red Stars, the National Women’s Soccer League club will boast one rookie who should be a familiar face for fans of the Rutgers women’s soccer team.

Former Scarlet Knights forward Jonelle Filigno made her home debut Wednesday in a 2-0 loss to the Seattle Reign.

Sky Blue FC will also welcome Eric LeGrand as the club honors the Rutgers community for an appreciation night known as Scarlet Knight.

LeGrand has been an avid soccer supporter since his days at Rutgers, often attending soccer games as a student. He checked out the NWSL club last year upon finding out that a women’s professional team existed in New Jersey.

Sky Blue FC Director of Sales Jim Gooley said that the local ties between the club and community propelled the event forward.

“Without a doubt yes. … When we have the stars on the field right here, why not thank Rutgers for helping put the Sky Blue roster together?” Gooley said. “We know Glenn Crooks has always produced stars, just look at Carli Lloyd and where she is. We’re contenders because of the work done at Rutgers.”

Filigno, current Knight Tricia DiPaolo and former Rutgers midfielder Rachel Breton were all in preseason camp with Sky Blue FC. Breton made one appearance last season for the club.

Owner Steven Temares also has ties to the community, having been a member of the ownership group since the franchise’s inception as a professional club in Women’s Professional Soccer in 2009. He is also a Rutgers graduate.

It is the first event that Sky Blue FC will partner with Team LeGrand and Gooley calls LeGrand the team’s “most visible [and] biggest supporter.”

“He has a front row seat for every game, the players not only from Sky Blue but from other NWSL teams come over,” Gooley said, “and you cannot help but be empowered by his infectious smile [and] his positive attitude. … [LeGrand] being a huge fan of the women’s game makes us want to give back to him whatever we can.”

LeGrand would like to see events — across the league — that bring awareness to spinal cord injuries.

“With the Sky Blue team, I’m hoping we can do something with the whole league to get them involved,” LeGrand said. “The more people the better, the more awareness and funds raised the better for not just me but for everyone going through the same situation. I’m hoping we can make it even bigger.”

Filigno, who has made two appearances in four matches off the bench, praised LeGrand for his selflessness.

“It’s funny though because he doesn’t want the support for himself [but for] people with the same condition,” Filigno said. “He’s just been a great mentor for that and just a great leader for raising awareness and getting money [towards the cause]. It’s very important that people come out and people support it.”

Sky Blue FC has played at Rutgers since the franchise became a professional club and is the only women’s professional team — in any sport — in New Jersey.

“We feel it’s our duty to give back to the community [and] give back what we can,” Gooley said. “If somebody loves us, someone like Eric, why not use this to call attention to his cause [and] give something back to his cause. But really, it draws people to Team LeGrand and makes people click on the Team LeGrand logo and learn more about the research that’s going on at Kessler.

To purchase tickets, visit SkyBlueFC.com/tickets and click on the May 7 match against the Chicago Red Stars. Enter code RU52 to purchase a $10 ticket, where $2 will be donated to Team LeGrand.

Lauren Green

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