Kerr Stymied in Sky Blue Draw

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sky blue logoPISCATAWAY, N.J. — Everyone at Yurcak Field was waiting. All eyes were on Sam Kerr every time a ball was served near the Australian international. The Sky Blue faithful, 2,690 strong on a sweltering Sunday night, were hoping they would see Kerr set a single-season goal-scoring record in the National Women’s Soccer League against the first-place North Carolina Courage.

Kerr had a few opportunities, including a goal-called back for offside, but is stuck on 16 with one game left in the season — at Boston on Saturday.

But the night wasn’t a total loss. Kerr got an assist on Raquel Rodriguez’s 75th minute goal that gave Sky Blue (9-11-3, 30 points) a 1-1 draw with North Carolina (16-5-1, 46). It also delayed the Courage’s bid for the NWSL Shield as the team with the best regular-season record.

Rodriguez’s goal came after a play that started with a strong free kick into the box from Domi Richardson. Kerr outleaped Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland and chested the ball down to Rodriguez, who came on for Maya Hayes at the start of the second half. Rodriguez calmly slotted a ball past Rowland for her third goal of the season.

The game was the third straight where Kerr has not scored. — she went without a goal in the first four games this year. She has scored 16 goals in 21 games and has starred for Australia, but was not among the three finalists for the Best FIFA Women’s Player.

“I expected it,” she said of the snub. “And [the record] doesn’t mean anything. I don’t care about the record because we didn’t get to the final. That’s what was important.”

North Carolina went up 1-0 in the 27th minute when Ashley Hatch scored on a breakaway. A

Kerr was hounded by North Carolina central defenders Abby Erceg and Abby Dahlkemper all night and worked hard for space. Her best chances came in the opening minutes when Rowland flubbed a clearance and the ball went right to Kerr but she couldn’t get a strong shot off.

Two minutes later, Hayes went along the goal line before sending a low serve across the box but Kerr couldn’t catch up with it.

In the 31st minute, Kerr had room to operate from about 30 yards out. She wheeled her way into the box and hit a high shot over the crossbar.

Casey, who made her first start of the season, was spectacular for Sky Blue. She started in place of rookie Kailen Sheridan. By sitting out, she broke a streak of 1,980 minutes (22 games) and was the only rookie in 2017 to play every game to this point.

Casey made two sprawling firs- half saves — one on Lynn Williams and the other on Denise O’Sullivan. Both times she poked the ball around the post.  Casey preserved the save in the 86th minute when she came out to stop Williams on a breakaway.