BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Sam Kerr is used to scoring goals at Toyota Park, but on Thursday she got to do it for her national team as opposed to her club team.
Kerr scored the insurance goal in Australia’s 2-0 win against Japan in the Tournament of Nations. Kerr is currently tied for the NWSL lead in goals with nine for the Chicago Red Stars.
She scored on a breakaway in the 81st minute. Kerr rounded Japan goalkeeper Chika Hirao and put the game on ice.
“I guess it’s nice kind of before the game feeling at home here,” Kerr said. “The days leading up I felt comfortable knowing where I was and that just helps a bit, but Toyota Park is lovely to play on so any time you get to play on there it’s special.”
As the adopted local, Kerr was able to show her Australian teammates around Chicago in the lead up to the match.
“I knew my way around for once,” Kerr said with a laugh. “I really like Chicago. It was a nice change from the other two cities. It’s obviously an amazing city and the coffee is good so we’re all happy.”
Alanna Kennedy opened the scoring with a free kick in the opening minutes of the second half. Her low shot snuck underneath the wall and inside the near post.
Australia finished with two wins and a draw in the tournament. The Matildas win the tournament if the U.S. doesn’t beat Brazil by two or more goals.
Australia won the tournament last year and was the last team to beat the U.S. Another good showing in these three matches, wins over Brazil and Japan and a draw against the U.S., show the Matildas are a contender for next year’s World Cup.
“We’re just worried about this year,” Australia coach Alen Stajcic said. “We just had a chat about that with the players just then. We came off a bit of a high from here last year and then got a lot of media attention back home and a lot of the spotlight was on the players for the first time really ever that the mainstream media put the spotlight on our team. That did build up a little bit of pressure. We’ve had to deal with that this year.”
Japan finished the tournament with three losses. Coach Asako Takakura was asked where her team stands after the tournament.
“After you lost three matches, you know where you are,” Takakura said through a translator.