Sam Kerr

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Chelsea Ladies sign NWSL superstar Sam Kerr

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Sam Kerr is heading to London.

The Australian megastar is leaving the Chicago Red Stars for Chelsea after scoring two MVP awards in the National Women’s Soccer League (2017, 2019).

[ MORE: NYCFC teen off to Gladbach ]

Kerr, 26, has 38 goals in 83 caps for the Lady Matildas, scoring four times in one World Cup match against Jamaica last summer.

Her 69 goals are the most in an NWSL career, and she admits it was a challenge to leave her comfort zone and head to Europe.

“Probably the part that was most difficult was leaving friends and the US because I’ve created such a home there, but it was just time for me to make a change. And once I had my eyes set on Europe, it was kind of an easy decision to choose Chelsea as a club.”

It’s a huge signing for Chelsea, who is leading the table through five matches with an unbeaten 4W-1D record. She’ll join the team in January.

NWSL announces changes to salary cap, wage structure

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The NWSL, whose 2019 season just concluded on Sunday, announced sweeping changes to its salary cap and wage structure, including implementation of workarounds similar to those in Major League Soccer.

First and foremost, the league boasts a 19% increase in the salary cap for the 2020 season, set now at $650,000,  plus increases to the league minimum and maximum salaries, upped to $20,000 and $50,000 respectively.

In addition, the league announced the institution of an allocation system that would allow teams to buy down salaries, helping them get under the cap and allowing them to sign players for above the league maximum.

There are restrictions to the allocation rules that are intended to help increase the distribution of salary increases rather than see teams pouring the extra wiggle room into one or two big-name players. Teams are not allowed to use allocation money on USWNT or Canadian National Team designated players, but can only use it on players who qualify through various determining factors such as national team caps, NWSL awards, or NWSL tenure. Some on social media speculated that this system seems tailored to keeping Australian international goalkeeper Sam Kerr in the league, since it is restricted from use on U.S. internationals.

The league also announced that teams will be permitted to acquire players via transfer fees, a new addition to the league signaling a stronger financial viability. Still, there are restrictions. Teams must use allocation money to purchase players, and cannot sell players that have U.S. National Team designation.

There are also changes to the housing and auto assistance programs as well as new details to the discovery system. You can see the complete NWSL release with all the new rules and regulations here.

NWSL final: Courage run rampant on Red Stars, claim second title

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The North Carolina Courage put four unanswered goals past the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, winning the National Women’s Soccer League championship for a second consecutive year by a scoreline of 4-0.

It is the second title in the club’s history, tying a record held by the Portland Thorns and the defunct FC Kansas City.

Like the dominant team they are (and have been), the Courage – fresh off of winning their third straight NWSL Shield – wasted no time in imposing themselves on Chicago.

Just four minutes in, Debinha’s close-range finish – the fastest-ever goal in a NWSL championship game – foreshadowed what was to come at a sold-out Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

What exactly was it that came in the 86 minutes that followed?

A tormenting, fluid Courage attack that overpowered a feeble Red Stars, who were missing injured Tierna Davidson and failed to plug-in league MVP Sam Kerr into the game.

Before the first half came to an end, forward Jessica McDonald double the lead for the hosts’, heading the ball with into the back of net. In stoppage time, Crystal Dunn’s goal put the game out of the Red Stars’ reach.

“It was a hotter today than we expected and we needed to share the load and, you know, [we] had four different goal scorers,” Dunn said. “I always said this team is so hard to beat because who are you going to stop on our team?”

“We got up on them early and I think that really helped us in the end,” she added. “It is a final and we are playing against a top team this year and we obviously did not think the score would be four-zero,” Dunn added. “So we are really proud of our effort.”

Debinha, the game’s first goalscorer, was named the final MVP, which was U.S. national team legend’s Heather O’Reilly last professional game.

With Sunday’s title in the books, the Courage became the first NWSL team to win the NWSL Shield and the NWSL Championship in back-to-back seasons.

In other words, Paul Riley and Co. have put together a dynasty. It was only fitting that they also became the first team in NWSL history to hoist the cup in front of the home fans in Cary.

NWSL: Sam Kerr focused on leading Red Stars to title

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Sam Kerr sat down on a metal bench after taking a few extra shots after practice. Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames poked fun at her competitive streak, and Kerr just laughed it off.

If the Aussie star is on her way out of town, it was hard to tell on a picturesque summer afternoon in suburban Chicago. While speculation abounds about where Kerr might play next season, she is focused on leading the Red Stars to the franchise’s first NWSL title.

“I want to win the NWSL. I’ve never done it, and I love Chicago,” Kerr told The Associated Press. “The NWSL’s given me so much. I think it’s made me the player who I am.”

And that’s one of the world’s most dangerous attackers, capable of creating a prime scoring opportunity for herself or one of her teammates in seconds. It’s easy to see why Chelsea might be interested in bringing her to Europe, or why she might draw lucrative offers from Lyon or Real Madrid.

What Kerr decides to do about her future could be a major test for the NWSL after it saw renewed interest in the wake of the United States’ championship in the Women’s World Cup last month. While the top Americans play in the NWSL, the loss of a foreign star like the 25-year-old Kerr would be a blow to the league as it tries to grow in the coming years.

“The best players in the world are in this league,” Dames said, “and if you want to be one of the best players in the world, you need to come into this league and prove yourself, not prove yourself in leagues where the competition is a little different or the quality of the teams in the league from top to bottom are a little different.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why Sam has really excelled, is because a lot of the other perceived top players in the world I don’t think could have the success that they’re currently having where they are in this league.”

Taking in the whole picture like a defense unfurled in front of her, Kerr seems at ease with the discussion.

“I think there’s a lot of new women’s teams coming forward, and I think it’s just fans wanting me to go to their club,” she said. “It’s new teams, new fans, which is great. That’s what happens in the men’s game. The more talk about women’s football, the better.”

Kerr, who captained the Matildas in the World Cup, splits time between Chicago and the Perth Glory in Australia’s W-League. She is the all-time leading scorer in each league, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Kerr scored her NWSL-best 13th goal Wednesday night, but the Red Stars’ five-game win streak was snapped by a 2-1 loss at Sky Blue FC. She also led the NWSL in goals in each of the previous two seasons, including a league-record 17 in 2017 when she was the NWSL MVP and Golden Boot winner during her final season with Sky Blue.

With Kerr powering the attack and Chicago fully stocked once again after the World Cup, the Red Stars are second in the NWSL standings heading into this weekend, one point back of Portland and one clear of North Carolina.

“I think she’s just so dynamic,” said defender Katie Naughton, who also plays with Kerr in Australia. “Her movement on and off the ball is just something that you don’t necessarily see in the women’s game a lot.”

Kerr was acquired by Chicago in a three-team trade on draft day in January 2018 that also featured U.S. stars Carli Lloyd and Christen Press. Midfielder Nikki Stanton, Kerr’s longtime girlfriend, also moved to the Red Stars as part of the deal.

While the couple is competitive, Kerr said they know when to leave it back on the field.

“She kind of knows when I’ve had a bad game or when she’s had a bad game, and we don’t bring it up,” Kerr said. “It’s actually better, because it’s someone, you know when you talk to your parents and they say the wrong thing and annoy you, so we kind of know what to say to each other.”

Kerr, the youngest of four siblings, grew up in an Australia rules football family. Her father, Roger, and Daniel, one of her two brothers, played professionally. Soccer “was kind of seen as a little bit of a girls’ sport compared to an AFL game,” Sam Kerr said.

Sam started focusing on soccer after she had to stop playing AFL when she was 12 because there was no women’s league for the hard-hitting sport. The women have their own league now, and Kerr has received several offers from its teams over the years.

“It would be amazing to play AFL and maybe one year I will retire there,” she said, “but yeah, I’ve just grown to love football now. … I can’t see myself back there.”

Norway bounces Australia in PKs to reach World Cup quarters

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Norway needed 120 minutes and penalty kicks to do it, but the Grasshoppers topped Australia to join Germany as the first two nations to reach the quarterfinals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup on Saturday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s Women’s World Cup coverage ]

Same Kerr went inches from giving Australia a dream start and putting the Matildas ahead inside 25 seconds. After timing her run perfectly to split the Norwegian defense, she cut inside and pulled her right-footed shot just wide.

[ MORE: Germany handles Nigeria, books quarterfinal spot ]

Norway went ahead with a flawlessly taken goal in the 31st minute. Karina Saevik played one of the best 40-yard through balls we’ll see all summer, and that put Isabell Herlovsen one-on-one against the goalkeeper as she raced into the box. Her right-footed finish was strong and full of conviction, just inside the near post, to ripple the back of the net.

Australia were briefly awarded a penalty and a chance to draw level in the 42nd minute, as Maria Thorisdottir was initially deemed to have played the ball with her upper arm on a cross by Kerr. However, upon video review, the referee reversed her call and Norway were let off the hook.

[ MORE: USMNT faces T&T for first time since Couva ]

Australia were again on the wrong side of a crucial — and correct — refereeing decision in the 60th minute. Kerr deftly placed the ball in the back of the net after a nearly catastrophic error at the back by Norway, but she was spotted in an offside position during Australia’s quick transition from defending to possession, and the flag went up.

Australia left themselves in limbo until the 83rd minute, when Elise Kellond-Knight scored what was almost certainly an unintentional Olimpico goal after everyone the box — Aussies and Norwegians alike — were unable to get a touch on the tantalizing curler.

Australia was reduced to 10 players in the final seconds of the first period of extra-time. Alanna Kennedy was sent off for dragging Caroline Graham Hansen down by her shirt, denying what the referee deemed to be an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, despite the goalkeeper being quick off her line to challenge for the through ball.

Despite a handful of heart-stopping chances for both sides, neither side was able to break through in extra-time, forcing the first penalty shootout of the knockout rounds.

Norway converted all four of their spot kicks, while Kerr sent hers well wide and high in the first round. Ingrid Hjelmseth then proceeded to deny Emily Gielnik one round later to give the Norwegians an insurmountable lead and a place in the quarterfinals.