After Sky Blue FC traded Sam Kerr to the Chicago Red Stars in the 2018 draft-day mega trade, fans circled her return to Yurcak Field on July 7. They got more than the bargained for — on and off the field.
The New Jersey side was mired in a historic slump that would see them go all the way until the final day of the regular season before earning their first win. As the Red Stars stalked a playoff berth, Sky Blue were an unsightly 0-10-3 at the time.
A year earlier, Kerr was MVP of the league, thanks in part to a pair of dramatic hat tricks scored at Yurcak Field. Her return in a Red Stars kit was a day shy of the one-year anniversary of her first one, which came in the span of 12 minutes to erase a 2-0 deficit and defeat FC Kansas City at the death.
Kerr’s return to New Jersey in 2018 was like she never left. It took a full 23 minutes of game play this time and was separated by halftime, but Kerr managed three more goals in a dominant, 3-1 victory for her side.
It looked like a feel-good return to her old team… until she was asked about returning to play against Sky Blue.
“If I’m honest I didn’t enjoy it,” she began. “I wish things were better here and that I could stay. It just sucks that that’s the way it had to be. I wish I could take every single one of them [former teammates] with me, but that’s not the way it is.”
Asked to expand on her answer, Kerr kept going: “I’m just going to say the girls deserve better and leave it at that. These girls are great girls. They give everything for this club and this league and they just deserve better. I scored a hat trick, but I wasn’t myself today. I feel sick playing against these girls. I felt like I was going to cry at some points in the game.”
Athletes returning to old haunts and leaving behind scathing comments is nothing unusual. But in the insulated, feel-good world of women’s soccer, it jumps off the page. This time, it also got people talking.
Over the next week, several current and former Sky Blue players and staffers felt compelled to speak out to double down on Kerr’s comments. The result was this article that was published on The Equalizer and another that appeared on SB Nation. The conditions at Sky Blue became the talk of the league and even drew the attention of some local political publications in New Jersey, whose governor, Phil Murphy, co-owns the club.
Kerr never slowed down after the hat trick at Yurcak, eventually repeating as Golden Boot winner and being named to the league’s Best XI. Sky Blue would concede another hat trick, to Lynn Williams, a week later. They were 0-17-6 before defeating the Orlando Pride on Sept. 8 to go out winners. Since the season ended, the team’s official supporter’s group, Cloud 9, has been campaigning on Twitter for the removal of general manager Tony Novo, and several members say they refuse to renew their season tickets until significant changes are made.
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