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The Kronick Report: The Sam Kerr Show

Week 12 of the NWSL season was an exciting one, headlined by the unbelievable performance by Australian and Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr on Saturday night as her three goals in 12 minutes helped NJ defeat Kansas City and overcome a 2-0 deficit to win the night 3-2. Let’s check out the three Kerr braces that led her triumph.

Sam Kerr had a lot to celebrate after a 12 minute hat trick on Saturday night (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Sam Kerr had a lot to celebrate after a 12 minute hat trick on Saturday night (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Two Words… Sam Kerr

What Happened: On Saturday, the 23-year old forward made history for Sky Blue FC as she scored a hat trick in 12 minutes to give her NJ side a win over FC Kansas City who had been leading 2-0 going into those last 12 minutes. Not only did her performance get her a spot on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10, it also gave her a place in the NWSL record books as she became the all-time NWSL leader with 34 goals (and then 35). Let’s start with the first goal of the epic comeback. In the 78th minute, Kerr scored a diving header to pull Sky Blue FC within one goal of FC Kansas City with 12 minutes to play.

How It Happened: The ball that was played into Sam Kerr from Kelley O’Hara was pure class. We see O’Hara out on the right flank pick her head up and then launch the ball 48 yards forward into the box, as she sees Sam Kerr sitting central, a bit behind her Kansas City center back. What I found most spectacular about this goal is that when the ball is first played, Kerr is in front of her defender and outside of the box. By the time the ball gets to Kerr, she’s now beat her defender and is not only inside the 18, but she’s just outside the six yard box. That means that she ran roughly 12 yards between the time the ball left O’Hara’s foot and reached Kerr’s head. The way Kerr attacks this ball really showcases her attacking talents. She throws her entire body forward to hit the ball mid air with a spectacular diving header. Not only does she make a 12-yard run to get on the end of a 48-yard long ball, completely leaving her feet and diving horizontally to meet the ball with her head, but she also places it perfectly in the lower right hand corner, where FC Kansas City keeper Nicole Barnhart is unable to get even a hand on it.

What Happened: Only three minutes after her first goal of the night, it’s Sam Kerr again who finishes another one for Sky Blue FC after a quick combination play from Raquel Rodriguez and Daphne Corboz to tie the game at 2 a piece with nine minutes left to go.

How It Happened: The build up to this play is great and it’s definitely something that immediately caught my eye when I saw the replay of the second Kerr goal on the night. The ball is first played into Daphne Corboz in the center of the pitch about 10 yards from the top of the box. Upon receipt of the ball, Corboz immediately faces up and plays the ball forward to Raquel Rodriguez. As the ball is coming into Corboz’s feet, you can see Rodriguez’s movement which is key here. She’s originally making a run forward, but as the ball goes into Corboz, Rodriquez pops out and back into space ahead of a now flat Kansas City back line. Corboz continues to move forward after she plays the ball to Rodriguez who recognizes that immediately and uses only one touch to play a square ball right back to Corboz. As Corboz approaches the ball back from Rodriguez, Sam Kerr starts to make a quick move into space. Corboz sees her immediately and uses only one touch to play a through ball to Kerr, who now has the ball at her feet in center of the box, 15 yards out. In true Sam Kerr fashion, she picks her head up and launches a low driven shot to the lower left hand corner on her first touch and it goes right past Barnhart and into the back of the net. The quick one-two passing between Corboz, Rodriguez, and then Kerr is so instrumental in setting up this play. Corboz and Rodriguez are able to beat four defenders with essentially a give and go inside a tight space at the top of the box. The Corboz through ball is equal parts brilliant from both her and from Kerr. Corboz’s recognition of Kerr’s positioning is great along with the weight of the ball that lands right in Kerr’s stride coupled with Kerr’s vision and positioning of her run as she sits on the defenders shoulder. The second Corboz makes the pass, she’s back inside behind the back line which is also so important. Last, but certainly not least, Sam Kerr employs superb finishing technique to not only hit her shot first time, but to place it where she did to ensure there was no way to would be kept out of the back of the net.

Sam Kerr celebrates after scoring her third goal to complete the hat trick and secure the win for Sky Blue. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Sam Kerr celebrates after scoring her third goal to complete the hat trick and secure the win for Sky Blue. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

What Happened: To cap off her spectacular performance, in the 90th minute Sam Kerr put away her last one of the night giving Sky Blue FC a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over FC Kansas City and increased her NWSL record all-time goals count to 35.

How It Happened: Before the ball is played in from Taylor Lytle, it’s really important to look at Kerr’s position. She’s splitting two KC defenders right at the top of the box and we can see her waiting to make her move in behind that back line. Lytle recognizes  where Kerr is and plays a through ball that plainly beats the entire FCKC back line. Her through ball finds the feet of Kerr after it’s executed as a diagonal forward ball to beat those defenders. Kerr feels the one defender on her back, takes a touch forward as her body shields off the defender but also sets up her shot, and again slots one home past Barnhart from six yards out that bangs right into the back of the net in the lower right hand corner. Kerr was able to read FCKC’s flat back line now twice in a row and time her run perfectly to be on the receiving end of the through ball and finish from close range.

Although I dedicated this week’s Kronick Report to the brilliance that was Sam Kerr’s performance in Week 12, it wouldn’t be fair to complete the week’s scoring analysis without mentioning the rocket free kick that Portland Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan fired into the upper left corner of the goal in the 91st minute to salvage a point on the road against Houston on Saturday. So here’s that!

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