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The Kronick Report: Rapinoe strike puts her atop league with 9 goals

This past weekend’s games mark the halfway mark of the NWSL season, and we’ve seen plenty of goals fit for a highlight reel. Let’s look at last weekend’s half volley from Megan Rapinoe, Sam Kerr’s inside the six finish, and Shea Groom’s turning strike.

Megan Rapinoe scored both goals in this weekend's 2-0 victory over Portland, putting her at the top of the table with nine goals on the season. (Photo: Seattle Reign FC)

Megan Rapinoe scored both goals in this weekend’s 2-0 victory over Portland, putting her at the top of the table with nine goals on the season. (Photo: Seattle Reign FC)

Rapinoe slides into first place in goal standings with rocket

What Happened: Megan Rapinoe scored her league-leading ninth goal of the season in the 81st minute to lock in the 2-0 win for her Seattle side over the Portland Thorns.

How It Happened: The attacking portion of this play started with a beautiful ball from Reign midfielder Christine Nairn. Nairn is in the center of the pitch in her own half when she launches a perfectly placed through ball in the air to Megan Rapinoe, who she sees in a great position on the left side of the field. That great position that Nairn recognizes is Rapinoe on the shoulder of her defender with space behind her. She is able to take off using her speed right when Nairn hits the ball so that she can get on the end of Nairn’s through ball, beating that defender on the run. As another central Portland defender comes to try and help close her, Rapinoe recognizes that and knows she can only take one touch. She takes her one and only touch of the play, which ends up being a half volley that rockets into the back of the net. It’s super important that Rapinoe decides to hit this ball first time. If she had chosen to take a touch, it’s possible she would’ve been denied by one of the two Portland defenders that were closing in on her at the time. On the finish itself, Rapinoe employs true attacking technique as you can see her slow down her feet to make sure her half volley is timed perfectly, hit with a crisp strike, and kept low so that Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch has to attempt to make a save. The power behind it as well as the angle makes it impossible for Franch to keep it out of her goal.

Galton-Hayes-Kerr combination wins three for Sky Blue

Sam Kerr earned Player of the Month honors with her stellar performance in June. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Sam Kerr earned Player of the Month honors with her stellar performance in June. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

What Happened: A Leah Galton cross followed by a Maya Hayes flick on and a Sam Kerr finish secured a 1-0 victory for Sky Blue FC over the first-place North Carolina Courage this past weekend.

How It Happened: In the 84th minute, a great attacking combination play between three N.J. players locks in their only goal of the game. It starts off with Leah Galton beating not one, but two players on the left side of the pitch. She first beats Courage defender Elizabeth Eddy by cutting inside with a quick touch and then pushing the ball into the open space on the flank. As Eddy tries to track back, another defender in Taylor Smith comes over to try and stop Galton. With a quick long touch and a bolt of speed, Galton pushes it by Smith, now close to end line before crossing it into the box. Galton does a great job of beating both of these defenders with a quick change of pace. We don’t see her do anything extravagant by way of specific moves, but her change of pace really gives her an advantage in getting past both Eddy and Smith, allowing her to get a cross off angled right across the front of the goal. Galton’s ball is made even better because she has both Maya Hayes and Sam Kerr inside the six with only one defender between them. Galton’s ball initially goes near post for Hayes, which draws the defender to that post, leaving Kerr completely open. Hayes, who is a little too close to the end line to be able to put Galton’s ball on net recognizes that Kerr is wide open in front of the goal. Hayes uses a flick to hit the ball right over to Kerr. Sam Kerr, in typical Sam Kerr fashion, uses a first time finish to hit the ball into the back of the net. Hayes’ recognition of Kerr unmarked in the center of the goal was instrumental here, and it truly gave Kerr the opportunity to finish one with no pressure on her at all. Her first time finish was hit hard enough and close enough in on goal that there was no chance a save could be made.

Long awaited Shea Groom goal comes in style

What Happened: Shea Groom tallies one for FC Kansas City, but it’s not enough as the Houston Dash stole the game with two goals resulting in a 2-1 loss for the Blues.

How It Happened: Christina Gibbons floats a ball into the box as the minutes of stoppage time in the first half started to wind down. As the ball comes in, we can see both Sydney Leroux and Shea Groom try to post up on their defenders with their backs to goal, trying to ensure that they get to that lofted ball first. Once the ball goes over Leroux’s head, it’s all Groom to work her magic. She feels her defender as the ball comes to her, which is very important as she’s going to have her back to goal and needs to know where Cami Levin is before she even gets the ball. With two quick touches, Groom settles the ball and then uses the outside of her right foot to set herself up for a chance. The two touches are quick enough that Groom is able to continue to hold off Levin and keep the ball under control. Groom notices that Levin isn’t tight enough, which is why that second touch is able to help Groom find a tiny bit of space, but that ends up being enough. After putting that ball into a bit of space, Groom turns and fires one with her left foot that’s low and to the corner. She executes the turn perfectly, and Levin is unable to stop her or even get anything on the shot to block it. She finds the far post with a low driven ball on the ground, and Dash keeper Jane Campbell is unable to get a hand on it.

**It would be remiss not to mention Sam Kerr’s bicycle kick that made ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 from the mid-week games last week, so let’s just leave that here….

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