The new paradigm: Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr might be the best player on earth
It hasn’t been long since we last talked about Samantha Kerr, something she’s obliged us to do over and over again this season. Just last Friday, we were anointing her our National Women’s Soccer League midseason Most Valuable Player, something that seemed slightly less obvious when we wrote it.
Before that, we picked her as one of the key players in the league’s title race. Prior still, she came up as the Sky Blue FC player most likely to star at the 2019 World Cup. Going all the way back to May, when a domineering performance in Houston failed to get the attention it deserved, the 23-year-old Australian has made it clear for us. When greatness happens, the words are the easiest part.
Those words take on a different context after Saturday, when Kerr took her ongoing 2017 heroics to new levels. With three goals in a 12-minute span against visiting FC Kansas City, Kerr led her team, playing up a player, back from its 2-0 deficit to claim a 3-2 win, the result of which kept Sky Blue in the league’s top four, playoff-bound places.
In the process, Kerr moved into a tie for the season lead in goals and claimed Jessica McDonald’s place as the most prolific scorer in NWSL history. And on each of her three goals, she got the best of the world’s best defender, FCKC and U.S. national team center back Becky Sauerbrunn.
Beating her to a cross on one, taking advantage of vacated space on the second, and outpacing Sauerbrunn to a through ball on the third, Kerr showed a type of all-around game that was inconceivable two years ago, when her primary position was right wing. Now, instead of running at fullbacks from the flanks, she’s dominating some of the best defenders in the world.
“That’s probably the first game that I’ve got one up on her,” Kerr told FourFourTwo, reflecting on most forwards’ frustrations facing Sauerbrunn. “I’ve played her many times, 10 or more, and she’s beat me every time. It does feel nice to get one up on her … Becky’s got the last eight or nine up on me.”
For the second time this year, Kerr has changed the conversation around her. Three months ago, that discussion cast her as a future star – an undeniable combination of speed, skill, and tenacity that was still defining its potential. Come May, that potential was approaching, with back-to-back Player of the Month performances casting her as the NWSL’s best attacker.