Sam Kerr

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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.

Women’s World Cup: Marta sets record, Kerr scores four

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The missions were clear for Australia and Brazil as Group C play concluded Tuesday at the Women’s World Cup in France: Don’t lose.

Neither did, and Marta became the leading scorer in the history of the World Cup, stretching her women’s record in the process.

[ MORE: Mata staying with Man Utd ]


Italy 0-1 Brazil

Marta increased her Women’s World Cup record for goals to 17 with a second half penalty as Brazil finished third in Group C with Italy, Brazil, and Australia all finishing on six points.

Cristiani Girelli had a goal rightfully ruled out for offside in the 29th minute, and Brazilian goalkeeper Barbara made a point blank save as the match neared halftime.

As the match wore on, Brazil was seemingly content with handing Italy the group in exchange for the point which would hand it a place in the knockout rounds, but Debinha hit the deck under a challenge by Elena Linari and Marta converted the penalty with 16 minutes to go.

Jamaica 1-4 Australia

With its World Cup hopes in jeopardy, Australia turned to its superstar to get the job done; Sam Kerr scored twice in both halves to leave the Reggae Girlz without a win at the 2019 World Cup.

The Matlidas wasted little time in establishing control, getting a goal from Kerr to make it 1-0 and firm up control of their knockout round hopes.

Kerr headed the below gem of a cross from former Liverpool and Ottawa Fury player Emily Gielnik into the goal, and doubled her output with an unmarked header in the 42nd minute.

Jamaica did manage its first World Cup goal early in the second half, with Havana Solaun working around the keeper to score with one of her first actions of the game.

Kerr added a third before this gift from Jamaica completed her four-goal haul.

Australia defies Marta, Brazil in 3-2 thriller (video)

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What began as a day for Marta turned the legend’s accomplishment into a footnote.

Brazil let a 2-0 lead slip as Australia rallied to keep its World Cup hopes alive with a 3-2 win on Thursday at La Mosson in Montpellier.

The result will loom large in Group C should Italy handle its business against Jamaica to clinch one of the group’s two automatic places in the knockout rounds.

Marta’s 27th minute penalty made her the first player to score in five World Cups, and put her level with Miroslav Klose for the most career World Cup goals with 16.

[ MORE: Women’s World Cup news ]

Eleven minutes later Cristiane’s deft header made it 2-0, her fourth goal in two matches.

But Australia rallied behind star Sam Kerr, as Caitlin Foord pulled a goal back in first half stoppage.

Brazil’s defensive play worsened as Chloe Logarzo made it 2-2 in the 58th, and a flicked back header became an own goal. It was initially ruled offside like Kerr, but VAR flipped the referee’s decision to give the Matildas a massive break.

Bonansea, Italy surprise Australia in stoppage time (video)

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This probably wasn’t the match Italy expected to win in the group stage, but it knew it had a chance and goodness did Barbara Bonansea and Co. seize it.

Italy saw a pair of goals pulled back for offside before it scored its deserved winner against Australia in both team’s 2019 Women’s World Cup debut on Sunday in France.

[ MORE: Women’s World Cup news ]

Bonansea scored deep in stoppage time to complete her brace, as Italy grabbed a big three points in its first World Cup match since 1999.

Sam Kerr was taken down in the box and scored the rebound of her saved penalty to give Australia a lead.

Bonansea made it 1-1 in the 56th minute with an interception deep in Australia territory before dribbling into the 18 to beat keeper Lydia Williams.

She made a mistake on a corner kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time, and Bonansea nodded home at the back post to give the Italians a huge win and a massive chance at the knockout rounds.