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The Kronick Report: Kelly-Leroux capitalize on quick free kick re-start in strong FCKC win

It’s September and the race to the NWSL playoffs continues to intensify week over week. Sydney Leroux, Julie Ertz and Merritt Mathias all had enormous impacts for their respective sides this week as the playoff race continues to heat up. Let’s check out how exactly each of these goal-scorers did just that!

With her goal this past weekend, Leroux increases her goal total to six on the season.(photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Sydney Leroux scores FC Kansas City’s fourth on the day with quick start off a free kick

What Happened: A stoppage time Sydney Leroux finish secured a great 4-1 victory for FC Kansas City over Sky Blue FC on Saturday in Kansas City. Leroux’s goal was her sixth on the season.

How It Happened: FC Kansas City took advantage of a quick free kick to lock in another goal in their victory this past weekend. After a free kick was issued almost 30 yards out, FC Kansas City forward Maegan Kelly capitalized on a Sky Blue back line that was not at all ready for a quick re-start. After being fouled, Kelly stands up and immediately spots forward Sydney Leroux on her left side. Leroux recognizes her position on the field: on the left side of the pitch, isolated against only one defender, with tons of space to run into. Kelly sees this too and sets Leroux off on the run with a little pass forward into space. In moments, Leroux has caught up to the ball, with her defender in the dust, in a breakaway scenario in on goal. She cuts inside with her first touch so that even if a defender could catch her, they are cut off from the play and unable to interrupt her momentum. After two touches post-cut inside, she’s right outside the six yard box with no one to beat but goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. Sheridan is forced to come off her line to try and stop Leroux, but Leroux buries one low to the near post without Sheridan getting as much as a touch on the ball. I love the quick and smart thinking here by both Kelly and Leroux to capitalize on a quick free kick that turned out to be an incredible counter attack for Kansas City. NJ was caught sleeping and they definitely paid for it.

Ertz header gets much-needed win for the Chicago Red Stars

Late Julie Ertz goal gives Chicago a huge three points and pushes them back into third place with a few weeks to go. (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

What Happened: In the 84th minute, Chicago Red Stars defender Julie Ertz headed in a goal to cap off a come from behind victory at home against first-place North Carolina Courage.

How It Happened: With minutes winding down in regulation and the scored tied up at 1-1, Chicago forward Yuki Nagasato settles a ball inside the box towards the left side of the pitch. She picks her head up immediately to see what’s in front of her. This is super important becuase it’s in this moment that she’s able to see teammate Julie Ertz inside the box, a few steps outside of the six, perfectly positioned splitting two Courage defenders. Nagasato whips a ball into the box intended for Ertz. It’s a driven ball more so than a lofted ball which definitely helps with that happens next. A perfect ball from Nagasato would’ve found Ertz on her run, but it looks like she misplays this one slightly as it goes a little behind where Ertz was headed. But, fear not! Ertz comes back for the ball and still manages to not only get a head on it, but also redirect it perfectly into the back of the net by keeping it low and placing it right where she wanted it to go. Had Nagasato’s ball been lofted and behind Ertz, it’s likely she wouldn’t have been able to save that chance. Although it was behind her, it was driven and this allowed Ertz to really play into the momentum from the ball and ping it into the back of the net. I really love how Ertz is able to redirect it and bring one home for her side even after the ball played to her wasn’t exactly where she would’ve wanted it. The header, with only six minutes of regulation left, was massive for a Red Stars team seeking a playoff spot.

Defender Merritt Mathias’ strike locks in three points for Seattle

Merritt Mathias secured a Reign win with the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dash (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

What Happened: Seattle Reign defender Merritt Mathias scored the lone goal of the game for her side in a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dash on Saturday.

How It Happened: The moves by Beverly Yanez to start off the attack on this goal are pretty impressive. First, we see Yanez receive a ball at her feet, back to goal, with two defenders closing in on her. Yanez uses some quick feet to settle and turn and ultimately split both defenders before either have a chance to stop her. By looking over her shoulder before she receives the ball, Yanez was able to determine exactly where those defenders were and thus make up her mind as far as what she was going to do with the ball before it even got to her feet. This allowed her to make a quick move in a tight space and get past two defenders seamlessly. Once she’s through, she begins attacking the Houston back line.  Mathias, who was sitting on the shoulder of a Houston defender, recognizes Yanez immediately and gets out of her way to create space. By doing this, Mathias opens up a ton of space for herself on the left side. Yanez forces a Houston defender to come at her by continuing to drive towards goal and slots through a perfect through ball to Mathias, who was now unmarked with tons of space to run into. Mathias takes her first touch inside and the second she gets within the 18 yard box, she fires a strike on goal. She hits the perfect ball far post and it goes right into the back of the net. Her first touch inside is crucial so that she’s able to set up a better angle for herself. The far post shot is a thing of beauty and even the outstretched Jane Campbell is unable to keep it out of the back of the net.

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