Nadia Nadim was sensational last year, however, with Sky Blue missing some key players on the offensive front, the question was always: "Could she do it alone?"
The answer has been mixed this year, but I would say leans towards a no. Nadim struggled this year being left on an island by the rest of the Sky Blue squad. Against Kansas City, with O'Hara playing up we saw what happens when she gets a half chance, she puts them away. Since then though, teams have keyed in on Nadim. As the teams have focused in on her, she's drifted wide to find space and no one has moved into that space created, outside of maybe Katy Freels.
Enter Samantha Kerr. Last week we got a taste of her, but this week she made her first start at home. Kerr exemplified everything that the Sky Blue offense hasn't been lately. She was not only active, but she worked hard to link between the midfield and Nadim. In what has been a largely static 4-2-3-1 this year, Kerr has added a much needed wrinkle.
Look at Kerr's goal against Portland, its everything that Sky Blue hasn't been this year. Nadim goes from the middle and drifts to the back post while Kerr shifts from the outside to the inside, which causes an overload and confusion that Sky Blue has been missing.
This week Portland focused on Nadim opening up more space, but I wouldn't be surprised if next week teams shifted their focus towards Kerr , which will open things up for Nadim. As a due tey are able to create more chaos, which will lead to more scoring chances. Kerr looked a little rusty and failed to put one or two chances away, but now the team is creating chances and things are looking up for Sky Blue. Next week the team will get Kelley O'Hara and Jonelle Filigno, who had a quietly good World Cup herself, perhaps Sky Blue can put something magical together.
On the other end, Sky Blue has kept a much needed clean sheet. The debate of where O'Hara will play for Sky Blue is a little bit semantical at this point; the more interesting question is what is going to happen when Rampone returns. Grubka and Cutshall has been good, but not great, and while Cameron has been a rock in goal, it'll be interesting to see who pairs up with Rampone. While Grubka is probably the more athletic of the two, Cutshall may allow Rampone to roam more and be more involved.
It's also interesting to see Maya Hayes at left back now. What seemed to be originally a temporary experiment to cope with some deficiencies due to World Cup absences, now looks like it has yielded a long-term solution. While her positioning is at times questionable, there is no doubt that her work rate is incredible and she adds a little bit of attacking fair to the backline. With O'Hara returning it will be interesting if Hayes's emergence allows O'Hara to play in a more natural midfield position where she was effective.
Hopefully, this is the turning point that Sky Blue has been looking for. A team that had started the season with high hopes of making the play-offs going into the season found itself at the bottom of the table after 12 games. After losing 2-1 to Portland last week, the team ended their winless streak and hopefully started a push back up the table.
Despite their struggles so far this season, Sky Blue is not out of the play-off contention. With 8 games left Sky Blue is 7 points from 3rd/4th and 8 from 2nd. Will it be easy? No. But there is a chance.