RALEIGH, N.C. — For Sam Kerr, 2019 has been a banner year.
The Australian played in the World Cup, where she scored five goals in four games and guided the Matildas out of the group stage. She also won the National Women’s Soccer League Golden Boot by scoring a league-record 18 goals and has led her team to the league’s championship match.
And Friday, she took home more hardware.
NWSL President Amanda Duffy presented Kerr with the league’s Most Valuable Player Award for the 2019 season at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.
The venue hosted media days Friday ahead of Sunday’s NWSL final, which will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park in nearby Cary, North Carolina. Kerr’s Chicago Red Stars will face the defending champs, the North Carolina Courage.
“Obviously, I didn’t do this by myself so, just thanks to the girls that put up with me all season,” Kerr said. “18 goals doesn’t just come from one player. Thank you to my teammates. I love playing for Chicago, I love the girls, I love my team and they allowed me to be the best player I could be all year. It’s a huge team effort and this really means nothing if you don’t win on Sunday. So, let’s win the trophy, girls.
“It’s cool to obviously get this. It’s a huge honor. But the focus goes to Sunday.”
Kerr also won the league’s MVP award in 2017 with Sky Blue FC, making her the first player in the league’s short history to win the MVP twice. Kerr said winning this time feels a bit different.
“I think it does, because I’m in the final and our team has a chance at winning the championship,” Kerr said. “The first one, I was sitting on my couch, probably watching the semifinals when I found out. It does feel different and it feels a little bit better to be honest, that you can help your team hopefully achieve something great.”
Despite missing a handful of games this season to play for Australia in the World Cup in France, Kerr logged 1,862 minutes over 21 matches for Rory Dames’ side, netting a league-high 18 goals and five assists. Kerr also racked up 13 tackles, 26 clearances and seven interceptions on the defensive end, and was 68 percent accurate on 590 passes.
Kerr averaged a goal every 102.7 minutes she was on the field and she led the league in shots on-target with 53. She won NWSL Goal of the Week honors five times this season.
The 26-year-old Australian received 64.8 percent of first place votes. Courage midfielder Debinha hauled in 12.1 percent of first place votes, while Courage forward Kristen Hamilton got 8.5 percent of first place votes, Red Stars midfielder Yuki Nagasato garnered 8.2 percent of first place votes and Courage forward Lynn Williams had 6.4 percent of first place votes.
Kerr helped the Red Stars reach a 14-8-2 record, good enough for a second-place league finish.
“People see the football side of her and the social media presence of her, but they don’t actually get to experience a day-to-day with her. The energy that she brings and the positive attitude she brings is contagious,” Dames said of Kerr. “It’s pressed through the group. She’s worked hard to be able to do what she’s done this year. Came back after a difficult World Cup and had a great response. I think how much she cares about this group and the players and this city definitely shines through.”
The Red Stars and the Courage will face off in the NWSL final Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.