What makes this sport so much fun is that at any moment a player can do something that you’ll remember, possibly, forever. So many seconds are filled with this anticipation because goals aren’t the only acts that can deliver memory-imprinting amazement. Sometimes it’s a vicious dribbling skill, other times an unreal pass. Some players possess the ability to do it all. One such player is Mexico and Houston Dash forward Maria Sánchez.
Words cannot do this Sánchez pass justice, so watch in awe and keep watching until someone informs you that they think you might be drooling.
Let’s review how ridiculous this all was.
Against the Orlando Pride, Sánchez played wide left as a wingback. It’s not her best position, as she’s more directly dangerous closer to goal, but it provides her with a dangerous ingredient to utilize her skills: space. In this instance, though she was nearer the center circle than the penalty box, Sánchez closed the gap with absurdity.
As Sánchez receives the ball wide and realizes her marker is hesitant to step out, she surveys the runs ahead of her and picks out Rachel Daly. It should be noted that Daly is on the other side of the pitch and nearly 40 yards from the box when Sánchez tells her left boot what to attempt.
You’ll note that one defender is chasing Daly while three others are ahead of her. In order to give her teammate any chance at beating them, Sánchez has to guide her into a gap between defenders and drop the ball in a perfect spot to meet her in stride.
Reader: WHAT SORCERY IS THIS!?
I love Sánchez’s anticipatory posture as she waits to see if she did everything as perfectly as she envisioned before striking the ball. Spoiler alert: she did.
Notice the pace of the ball as it explodes off Sánchez’s boot. An assist like this requires every calculation to be perfect, from the angle and curl to the weight and pace of the ball. Within one second, the ball catches up with the runners, and for the final 1.3 seconds (yes I timed it) it floated above two defenders, hung a beat to give Daly a chance to line it up, and dropped between the center backs and onto her teammate’s forehead.
This is the moment Rachel Daly makes contact. Sánchez is out of frame and the far side defender is completely hidden behind Daly.
One of my favorite things in soccer is when a player concocts something evil in their mind and the opposition doesn’t figure it out until it’s too late.
Speaking of which, look at goalkeeper Erin McLeod. There’s no way she can anticipate that Sánchez saw the future and hit a curling 45-yard ball to where Daly’s forehead would be in a few seconds, but she did. The hesitation gave Daly a pocket of space to loop the ball into the goal behind her to make certain the pass wasn’t wasted.