Just imagine a full season of watching Sam Kerr play

Sam Kerr will be back in the lineup for Sky Blue

by TOM SLATER

It’s a shame that as the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) schedule is winding down, Sky Blue fans are just starting to see what Sam Kerr can really do.

Over the past four games, she’s scored four goals and now has 11 goals in 17 NWSL matches over the last two seasons — interrupted by injury and international play.

Saturday night, the Australian international was easily the best and most dynamic player on the pitch as Sky Blue went on the road to beat the Orlando Pride, 2-1, at Camping World Stadium. On her 23rd birthday, she brought Sky Blue level with a solo effort early in the second half and then set up Maya Hayes on the game-winner.

We should all have birthdays like this one. And we should all be 23 again.

The victory was the seventh of the season for Sky Blue (6-7-5, 23 points) and now has a chance to finish at .500 and perhaps surpass Seattle and finish in the top five in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Orlando fell to 6-11-1 and 19 points in its inaugural season. The two teams drew 1-1 Wednesday in New Jersey.

“I’ve been looking forward to coming back playing with the Sky Blue,” she said a couple of weeks ago after returning from the Rio 2016 Games, where she and  the Matildas were emotionally spent in a quarterfinal penalty kick loss to host Brazil. “These girls are so much fun to be around and I look forward to spending a whole year with them next year.”

Anyone who is a Sky Blue fan or just a fan of entertaining attacking soccer will be counting down the days as well.

Kerr was simply brilliant on the solo run from just under 30 yards away from goal just three minutes into the second half. She took a simple square ball from Tasha Kai and her first touch split Alex Morgan  and Dana Weatherholt to break into the penalty area. A quick cutback separated Kerr from Kalyn Kyle and Toni Pressley  before going in alone on Ashlyn Harris. Kerr kept the ball low and hard, beating the American international.

Her setup of Hayes game was no less remarkable but less discussed. She took a loose ball just inside midfield and chipped Hayes, who was able to take the ball on the run. The serve was very similar to the one in New Jersey last week that led to Kerr’s followup of Hayes’ rebound.

Those two plays turned around the fate of a Sky Blue team that couldn’t connect the final pass and in turn let Orlando go ahead on a golazo of a free kick from the foot of Kristen Edwards just before the half.

Before Kerr took over, it was her countrywoman, Lisa De Vanna, who had the Orlando home crowd buzzing. Making her first start since joining the Pride after the Olympics, De Vanna had two or three quality chances in the first half, forcing goalkeeper Caroline Casey to make several stellar saves. De Vanna was at her best beating a defender and then finding Jasmyne Spencer or Alex Morgan making a run in the box.

Unfortunately for Orlando, none of those chances ended up in goals. After 60 minutes, she came out of the game, tired but happy.

Sky Blue will cap off the season with a home game Sunday versus the second-place Portland Thorns FC.