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Sam Kerr breaks NWSL scoring record in Chicago Red Stars playoff-clinching win over Washington Spirit

Kerr looks like a lock for Golden Boot, but more importantly the Red Stars are through to the postseason.

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Red Stars picked up a fourth straight win and there were plenty of storylines to go with it.

For one, Sam Kerr scored twice in the 3-1 win against the Washington Spirit. That brought her goal total on the season to 18 and broke her own NWSL single-season scoring record. Kerr had set the record with 17 goals with Sky Blue in 2017.

“It’s not easy and these girls make it a lot easier than it should be,” Kerr said. “It was an amazing moment for me and something I’ll remember forever. It was nice to do it in front of the Chicago crowd.”

Kerr is a near-lock to win her third straight Golden Boot. She took home that accolade with 16 goals last year with the Red Stars.

“It was her record anyway, right?” Red Stars coach Rory Dames quipped sarcastically. “Sam is special. It’s not a secret to anybody. I’m happy for her. She was excited so we’re excited for her, but Sam has bigger fish to fry this year than how many goals she scores.”

The bigger fish will be getting results in the NWSL playoffs. The Red Stars (13-8-2, 41 points) win, plus Utah’s loss to North Carolina later on Saturday, clinched a fifth straight playoff berth for Chicago. They lost in the semifinal stage of all four previous trips. The Red Stars are currently second in the NWSL standings.

Kerr got the scoring started with a chip over Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe in the ninth minute. The lofted shot had perfect touch and went into the side netting.

“I just do things, I guess,” Kerr said when asked about the chip. “I actually was laughing because I always try and do that on the ‘keepers in the warmup and it never really comes off and that one came off.”

The Red Stars’ second goal was better than the first. A Katie Johnson backheel set up Kerr in front, who passed it to Yuki Nagasato to score in an open net.

The Spirit (7-8-5, 26 points) nearly got back in the game when Chloe Logarzo drew a penalty in the 31st minute. Her ensuing penalty was stopped by Alyssa Naeher.

Kerr added her record-setting second goal early in the second half to finish off the game.

Mallory Pugh earned the Spirit a consolation goal in the 80th minute. The Spirit can’t catch North Carolina or the Red Stars, but are still within five points of the final playoff spot.

“We’re still trying to push for playoffs,” Pugh said. “I think it’s very doable with this group. I think some people might say that we’re out, but obviously this is a tough loss for us. We needed to win this game.

“I think playoffs are still in our picture.”

The Red Stars have now won four straight after losing three in a row before the start of the streak. Dames said he challenged his team to approach every game as a playoff game after the losing streak. The response has been positive.

“I don’t know that the mentality has changed as much as some of the personnel and just the confidence of the group,” Dames said. “As I said to you guys when we lost the three in a row, this is an experienced group. They’ve been here before. They’ll figure it out or they won’t. It’s been more them figuring it out than not figuring it out so far.”

On a less serious note, the Red Stars picked up an emphatic win after much of the team saw the Jonas Brothers perform at the United Center the night before the match. With a game the next day, they didn’t party too long, though.

“We met them beforehand, gave them the jerseys, said hi, stayed for a song or two and then went to bed,” Naeher said.

The Red Stars finish the regular season next Saturday at home against Utah with playoff seeding on the line.

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