In the same game U.S. legend Carli Lloyd concluded her final NWSL regular season, young Racing Louisville FC attacker Cece Kizer put the finishing touches on a breakout year.
Both scored in Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Racing Louisville and NJ/NY Gotham FC. Lloyd buried a header to give Gotham the lead in the 53rd minute, only to be matched by Kizer’s penalty kick 16 minutes later for her seventh career goal in lavender.
Kizer, a 2019 second-round draft pick of the Houston Dash, joined Racing Louisville last year through the NWSL Expansion Draft. The 24-year-old has been a bright spot in the club’s first year, finishing the regular season tied for sixth on the NWSL scoring list with five goals.
“I look to Cece as a potential national team player and I’ve told her that, hands down, so I’m looking forward to her future,” said Louisville interim coach Mario Sanchez.
Kizer hears the praise and is channeling it into her play.
“I’ve heard it from a variety of the coaching staff, and it’s just a pleasure to know that they have that confidence in me and that they can see that for me in my career,” she said.
“Obviously it’s a goal to make the national team and be in the pool, in the talks and all that. I’m going to keep working, take a couple weeks off here and then get ready and get back at it in the offseason and get ready to come out here and keep my name in the loop next year.”
Kizer has been in the mix for the United States women’s national team. In August 2019, she was named to the U23 team for the Nordic Cup; prior to that, she attended a U23 training camp in 2017 and again in 2018.
She’s only helped her case by showcasing her versatility for Louisville this season. After playing as the high nine earlier in the year, she moved out wide and later shifted back to the center as an attacking midfielder. Taking on a variety of roles has helped the former Ole Miss star develop different sides of her game. Ultimately, she prefers her current central midfield position.
“I like to find those pockets and get assists, finding people through and also to keep working on finishing,” she said.
With her penalty-kick goal on Sunday, Kizer passed Ebony Salmon as Racing Louisville’s leading scorer through its first season.
“I wasn’t surprised as she stepped up and buried it,” Sanchez said of Sunday’s goal. “I mean, there’s no question you know that that ball is going in.”
.@cecekizer from the spot 🎯#NJNYvLOU | https://t.co/bONPZnnmCJ | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/OyMhvIbvVl— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) October 31, 2021
.@cecekizer from the spot 🎯#NJNYvLOU | https://t.co/bONPZnnmCJ | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/OyMhvIbvVl
Even with Kizer’s success in front of net this season, the Louisville coaching staff thinks she can become a more polished finisher.
“It’s good to know that the coaching staff and Mario see potential in me,” Kizer said. “I’m just going to keep working and improve different areas of my game.”
Kizer has taken major steps in the last month, not only because she’s had the opportunity to settle into the central midfield but also because the expansion team has finally clicked. Louisville, despite missing the playoffs as the second-to-last team in the league, went unbeaten in their final three matches — a record streak for the new franchise.
If Kizer and the team can maintain that rate of improvement through the offseason, she will be one of the top attackers to watch in 2022.
Jessa Braun is an editorial intern for Just Women’s Sports. She is also the Head of North American Content for the Women’s Sports Alliance. You can find her on Twitter @jessabraun.