In Focus: Kerr-ific Sam has WSL and World Cup glory in her sights
After Sunday’s disappointing Continental Cup defeat, Sam Kerr will be desperate to fire Chelsea to another Women’s Super League title this season.
The Blues missed the opportunity to secure their first piece of silverware of the campaign after being soundly beaten 3-1 by Arsenal at Selhurst Park.
Emma Hayes’ side still have work to do to defend their WSL crown as they sit four points off leaders Manchester United, albeit with two games in hand.
On International Women's Day, we turn the spotlight on top scorer Kerr ahead of the West Londoners' clash with Brighton tonight.
Kerr arrived from Chicago Red Stars during the 2019-20 season as a global superstar, leaving the National Women’s Soccer League as the division's top scorer with 77 goals — a record that still stands.
And the Australian has made light work of her transition into English football.
A 2-0 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round last month was her 100th Blues game and she marked reaching a century in typical style.
With the type of finish we have seen on countless occasions in the past, Kerr latched on to a through ball from Guro Reiten and delightfully lifted the ball over Manuela Zinsberger for her 81st goal for the West Londoners.
And while Kerr ended up on the losing side when facing up against the Gunners once again in Sunday’s League Cup final, she did open the scoring with a close-range header.
That took her tally this term to an impressive 21 goals in 24 games in all competitions.
Leading by example
Such is the regularity at which Kerr is able to find the net for Hayes’ outfit, it would be easy to think goalscoring just comes naturally to her.
But while the 119-cap international is certainly blessed with the gift of an intuitive poacher, her outstanding record is also the result of the consummate professional she is off the field.
That was evident in her display in that FA Cup clash last month, with the 29-year-old getting on the scoresheet just days after leading Australia to Cup of Nations triumph on the other side of the world.
Hayes said of her jet-lagged striker: "Some players get off a plane on Thursday night and complain about being tired on Friday — not her.
"She comes in, does everything necessary and lifts the spirit of everyone in the building.
"She is the best in the business. The spirit shown in challenging circumstances which, as a team, we showed better."
Competition for the WSL title is now a fierce battle with four sides in contention for the domestic crown.
Margin for error is so small that having a prolific striker can often prove the difference, as is shown by Chelsea’s three successive titles since Kerr arrived at Kingsmeadow.
Challengers Manchester City and Manchester United are smarting up to that idea and have climbed closer to the Blues’ level this term, with City ace Khadija Shaw and United forward Alessia Russo enjoying prolific campaigns.
And it is also no coincidence to see Arsenal fall away in the race since all-time WSL top scorer Vivianne Miedema and England poacher Beth Mead suffered long-term injuries at the end of 2022.
The Gunners failed with two bids — the second a world-record fee — for Russo in January as they desperately searched for firepower up top.
It is clear how crucial having a top-level striker now is in the WSL — a trend arguably initially set by Kerr’s devastating exploits in West London.
Though helping her club secure a fourth successive WSL crown will be at the forefront of her mind right now, Kerr has the small matter of a World Cup hosted in her native country to look forward to this summer.
As the Matildas’ captain and all-time leading goalscorer, she is naturally one of the poster girls for the global showpiece, which is being co-hosted with New Zealand.
She told FIFA last year: "I’m so proud that Australia is in a position where we’re able to host a World Cup.
"We deserve it and I think we’re going to show to the world what an amazing country we have, and what a sporting country we have.
"I’m just so excited. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like. The buzz is already starting. We can’t wait to welcome everyone to Australia."
Though there may be teams with a better shot of World Cup glory, you will be hard-pressed to find a country at the tournament with a better striker than the Matildas.