Sam Kerr is going to win FIFA Female Player of the Year one day.
All I have to do to know that is watch the first half of this NWSL season to know it all the way down to my bones.The way Kerr reads the game, the way she finds space where there should be none, her heart-stopp ing shots, all of it combines for a near total package for an attacking player. And her backflip isn’t bad either.
Two days before Sam Kerr scored a hat trick in a little over 12 minutes to lead Sky Blue FC to an unlikely comeback over FC Kansas City, I was able to catch up with her at the practice field.
Sidenote: Anytime you get a chance to watch Sam Kerr take shots on goal, take it. In a game or just in practice she has a bit of magic that can’t be denied.
Backline Soccer (BS): First off, I have to ask, is the reason you’re having such a good year because you have Brooklyn (Kerr and her housemates have been fostering a dog during this season)?
Sam Kerr: I mean I guess you could say if I’m having fun off the field I’m playing well on the field so I’m sure she’s a part of it. Laughs
BS: You’ve had an interesting season this year. Two Player of the Month awards. Off to a little bit of a slow start and then you caught fire. Did you just need to get warmed up, and then once you were comfortable you were off to the races?
Kerr: Yeah, I think this is my first year really being in the league from the start. Other than the first two, so. I’ve been injured the last two. So it plays on your mind a little bit. But I think, yeah, it’s hard to come into a team and do well straight away and I think as a team we’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on. So I think you could say that, but yeah I just felt more comfortable with the girls and I think as a team we’ve started playing better.
BS: You guys seem to be the underdog of the league no matter how well you do. There seems to be this underdog mentality–does that help a little bit, like you don’t have that target straight on your back? You just sort of get to have fun?
Kerr: Yeah! I personally like being the underdog. It’s fun, I like being a dark horse. I feel like being from Australia we’ve always kind of been the dark horse. So yeah we love that. We love just having fun and playing our style of football and not having all the pressures other big clubs might have on them. I think this year we’ve beaten most of the big clubs so that says a lot about our team.
BS: One event coming up is the Tournament of Nations. I think we can safely assume you’ll be going against one of your teammates. Is that something that’s you enjoy–wildly different styles in the tournament, American style, Australian, Brazilian and Japanese. It’s not the World Cup, it’s not the Olympics. Can you have a lot more fun with it?
Kerr: Yeah, well firstly, obviously, I hope I’m there. Gotta get selected. So, fingers crossed. But, yeah, it’s obviously always fun to play the US. We’ve never beaten them so it’s a massive challenge for us and it’s always nice to play the top nation in the world. We have a really big rivalry with Japan AND Brazil, so I love playing the Japanese, I think they’re a really fast team. And the Brazilians, obviously we’ve had a bit of history with them in the last few years so it will be nice to hopefully get one up on them.
BS: You play with a lot of these players in the league. You play with a couple on Sky Blue and you play against several. Is that nice to get more familiarity with those players in the league before you go into a tournament like this? Assuming of course, that you are on the roster?
Kerr: Yeah, I think you kinda know their tendencies and know what they’re like and know how they play. But it goes the same with us; there’s a lot of Australians in the league so, yeah I guess it’s good to see more of national team players and being familiar with what they do and I think when you watch all the Brazilians play, whether they’re playing for Orlando or Houston, they all have the same tendencies. They’re a skillful bunch, and you know they like that crafty play. And then the US players obviously, they’re that fit, fast, and go team. The Japanese are obviously very different. They’re pass, pass, pass and everyone wishes they could do that as well as the Japanese. Yeah, I think us Australians have our own style of play. We’re fast, we’re fit, and we’re really exciting. We’re really fast and attacking-minded team, as well as a really strong defensive team.
BS: Is it fun to play against your Australian teammates? Lydia Williams is a goalkeeper for Houston–you’re a forward. How is it to have to go up against her directly, to have to do your job?
Kerr: Yeah, it’s fun. But, I think all of us would say we’d rather be on the same team. But you know, that’s life. The girls in Orlando have three Australians there. So they’re quite lucky–well, two now. But, yeah. I love playing against them because we get to have a laugh and catch up with them, but I’d rather be on the Australian team.
BS: Are you trying to recruit a couple of Australians to come here?
Kerr: I mean, ask Christy (Head Coach Christy Holly) if he would take some. But yeah, there’s so many that could play over here but we’d obviously like to get Caitlin Foord back and have her here. But people move on and people want to do new things. It’s awesome that we have 6 or 7 in the league, but you never know.
BS: The W-League has been having a lot of success in the last decade. Coming up next season will be 10 years. That’s something that’s interesting, having that home league to go back to, and sort of having those seasons match up. Is it something you think would be important and a good step to have allocated Australian players to the NWSL because of how the seasons match so perfectly?
Kerr: Yeah, I think it sounds good. But it takes away, you know, the Australian player being able to play overseas in Europe if that’s their choice. So it really does sound good, but the USA is not our home, so obviously we prefer to play in our own league during the summer which we could do. But if people want to go to Europe, that’s their choice. But I think if the players have their choice to their allocation as in if they wanted to be allocated; it wasn’t, you know, they had to play here because I know there are a lot of girls that are in Europe. There’s six or seven there, too. So, it sounds good but when you think about it, it takes away the girl’s choice of playing wherever they want overseas.
BS: Coming up on the end of this season, are you excited? Are you ready to make that push? Are you ready to three-peat as Player of the Month?
Kerr: Yeah, I mean it’s obviously nice to get recognized for those things but mostly I just want to push for a first spot. We’re sitting fourth with two games in front of everyone and that’s not good enough for me. So if we had Team of the Week every week and we won, I’d be happy. It’s obviously nice, but I want to be at the top of the table with the rest of these girls.
BS: There is a little bit of a curse on the Shield winner. The Shield winner has never won the championship in the year they won the shield. Is luck happenstance? Or are you guys gonna be the ones to break the curse?
Kerr: I mean, I don’t know. I guess that’s football you know. Anyone can win on the day and especially in this league. I think this league’s probably the best in the world with all the teams being equal. I think in the German league and in the French league there’s a lot of differences in the teams. And this league, any team can beat any team on any given day. So I think it’s a good thing for the league. But, look, we’re going for first, and then we’ll deal with that when we get there. But finals and top-spot Shield winners would be awesome.
BS: There’s a lot made of rivals in the league. They tried to do somewhat forced rivalries last year, scheduling you to play different teams different numbers of times. If you had to pick one team to be Sky Blue’s biggest rival, who would you pick?
Kerr: I don’t know. I don’t think we really have a rival like you said, we’re the underdog. Everyone kind of thinks they can come here and beat us. I think when we go to places they kind of count it as a win. I think you could say maybe DC, but I don’t feel, but the team I love beating is Portland. Laughs
BS: Doing the flip in Portland was nice.
Kerr: Being there twice and scored a few goals, it’s just the vibe, and it’s a credit to them and their atmosphere. Everyone dreams of playing in an atmosphere like that. It’s nothing against the players or the club or the team or the coach, it’s just the atmosphere. It’s probably like all the little premier league [teams] going to United or City. I just love winning there, I love scoring there.
BS: I’ll ask you one final question. Favorite defender to go against in the league? You’re playing Becky Sauerbrunn this week. I imagine she’s fun to outwit or get around.
Kerr: Not fun.
Kerr: You know what? Like, it’s different. Like obviously you’d love to go against a weakened defender or something, but like yeah, I feel like Becky’s probably, for me, one of the best defenders in the world. I respect her a lot. I’ve played against her a lot in the national team, and in the club level and I just think it’s a massive challenge every week I go out and play against her. So, I’m excited for this week and I haven’t played her in a while. Last time I played her I came on as a sub, so I think she’s a great defender so it will be nice to go against her and battle it out even though I do worry about playing against her because she’s very good.