In front of 3,325 fans, the largest crowd of the season in New Jersey, the third and final meeting of the 2017 NWSL season between Sky Blue FC and the Seattle Reign FC turned into another exciting high-scoring match that saw a total of 9 goals, four of them coming from Australian international and MVP candidate Sam Kerr, and a comeback victory that kept Sky Blue in the playoff picture and gave them a boost of confidence after coming into the match with a 4-game winless streak, the resignation of their head coach, and injuries to key players, including losing their captain Christie Pearce to accumulative injuries.
First Half: Seattle Reigned, 3-0
With a third of the season to go, this matchup was vital to both teams' playoffs aspirations. Before the start of the game, an Orlando Pride victory over the Boston Breakers gave the Pride a two-point lead over the Seattle, so the Reign came out into the match knowing they had to win this game in order to regain the number four spot they held on for three days.
It did not take long either. In the 3rd minute, Seattle took the early lead after a Katie Johnson goal. As the Reign pressed forward after a throw-in, Christine Nairn crossed the ball into the center of the box where Johnson was making a run to send it into the goal.
In the 18th minute, the Reign doubled their lead off a corner kick. Nahomi Kawasumi sent the ball into the back post where Jess Fishlock came up to meet it in the air, the ball rebounding off her stomach right into the goal.
Seattle continued to press for the rest of the half. Sky Blue looked underconfident and uncomfortable trailing by two, and in added time, their backs would get pushed further into the wall. Before the halftime whistle, Nairn sent a long ball into the box, bouncing into the back post where Erica Skroski left Kawasumi unmarked, and the Japanese international was able to capitalize and score Seattle's third goal.
It would be Seattle's last goal until the 85th minute because Sam Kerr would score her second hat-trick of the 2017 season to even the game.
Second Half: Sky Blue Down, but Never Out
Whatever was said at halftime in the Sky Blue locker room seemed to have worked because at the 48th minute, the New Jersey side got on the board. In a play building in the middle third, Nikki Stanton sent a pass into the space in front of Kayla Mills on the flank. Mills dribbled up the flank and sent the ball into the box where Skroski got a header which Seattle's defense tried to clear away, but Kerr was in position to get a touch in for a goal, her 12th of the season.
In the 68th minute, on the counter, Daphne Corboz sent a ball over the top of the Seattle backline where Kerr only had one defender to beat. Carson Pickett attempted to get in Kerr's way, but Kerr had enough space to shoot the ball into the net, easily scoring her second of the game and 13th of the season, making her the leading scorer in the league.
Kerr was not done as Sky Blue, looking more determined and confident than they did in the first half, on the counter-attack, in the 70th minute sent the ball to Kerr, who took it from midfield, going 1v4 and bending it into the goal from the 18 for her 3rd goal of the night and 14th overall. Kerr had scored another hat-trick to tie the game at 3-3.
Seattle, however, even though they gave up three goals, momentarily silenced the New Jersey crowd with a goal in the 85th minute. Kiersten Dallstream, who came in as a substitute to replace Beverly Yanez, restored the Reign's lead. But Sky Blue would return with a goal of their own in the 90th minute. Domi Richardson passed a ball to the center of the box where 73rd-minute substitute Maya Hayes headed it into the back of the net to level the game once again.
As the minutes neared the end in stoppage time, Sky Blue, in its attack found themselves facing a Seattle defense that was not ready to give up the fifth goal, but as McKenzie Meehan took a shot, defender Rebekah Stott blocked it in the box, inadvertently hitting her arm. Sky Blue was awarded a penalty kick, and Kerr was the selected kicker for the PK. However, Kerr's PK hit the crossbar and bounced back into play and out for a Sky Blue corner kick.
Off the corner kick, on the final play of the game, a traffic of Seattle and Sky Blue players jumped for the ball, and it was Kerr who got a touch off her head to send it in for the game-winner, and Sky Blue miraculously defeated its west coast rival, getting to be on the winning side this time, after a month ago they had erased a 4-goal deficit in Seattle, only to see their efforts evaporate as the Reign scored the game-winner in the 87th minute on that July night.
Sky Blue FC became the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit, and Sam Kerr set an NWSL record for most goals scored in a single game.