Matildas youngster Sam Kerr is looking to make a name for herself as she takes on the might of the US on Monday.
Imagine an Aussie playing for the likes of Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final. In women-s football terms that was the experience enjoyed by Matildas and Sydney FC attacking star Sam Kerr when she featured recently in the final of the NWSL; the USA-s professional league.
While the analogy might not be perfect, the bare facts are nevertheless impressive. Kerr-s Western New York Flash finished first past the post in arguably the toughest league in the world, with the Perth-raised 20-year-old playing in the final alongside FIFA Women-s World Player of the Year Abby Wambach and USA London 2012 goalscoring heroine Carli Lloyd.
Now Kerr is hoping to create another milestone moment on an already impressive resume this Sunday (Monday AEDT), when the Matildas hunt a first-ever win over world No1 USA in San Antonio. It will be the Aussies first hit-out since tackling New Zealand over two matches in the nation-s capital last June.
The Matildas have become renowned for their spirit and fortitude, and while they have knocked over top ten nations such as Germany, Norway, England and Japan over the past decade, a victory against two-time world champions USA is perhaps their unconquered Everest.
“I-m really looking forward to the match but once you step on the field there will be no friendships for 90 minutes,” said Kerr of the looming match-up against some of her Western New York Flash team-mates. “After the match we can be friends again.”
Sydney FC-s Kerr is known to many W-League fans for her sweetly timed goal in last year-s final, and memorably, the subsequent multi-somersault goal celebration.
Though having just celebrated her 20th birthday, Kerr-s national team experiences dates all the back to early 2009 when she debuted against Italy as a raw 15-year-old.
Unsurprisingly, Kerr though sees new-found growth in her game after her stint Stateside. “Definatly, I have improved as a player,” she said. “l learned a lot playing with Abby (Wambach) and Carli (Lloyd), as well as working with different players and seeing their perspective on the game. I-m now fitter and stronger. I learned a lot actually.”
“We had a lot of fun off-field as well, and that reflected on the field and the way we played.”
“It was awesome to play in the final. The whole league was great, and a great experience.”
Kerr was based in Buffalo in upstate New York, and was part of a quartet of Aussies spread across the league. Kyah Simon featured prominently for Boston Breakers, Emily van Egmond did likewise at Seattle Reign, while Caitlin Foord impressed at the New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC before injury curtailed her season keeping her out of this weekend-s much-anticipated international.
Adding an extra layer of intrigue to the Sunday-s match will be the reunion with former mentor Tom Sermanni who assumed the USA reins in January. The transition has been seamless with the world No1 remaining unbeaten in their 13 matches under Sermanni.
“I saw Tommy while I was in the USA before and he is still the same, easy going and cracking jokes,” said Kerr. “It was good to see him and it will be weird to see him on the other bench.”
Despite the friendships, and tough on-field challenge, Kerr is focussed only on victory.
“This is a chance to prove a point to a lot of people throughout the world and show what the Matildas can do,” she said. “Everyone loves a challenge so this is good for us.
“We never go into a game thinking about anything other than winning.”
Watch Australia-s match-up with two-time world champions USA in San Antonio on ABC TV on Monday 21 October at 11am (ABC 1). The one-hour programme will be replayed at 11:35pm on Monday.