BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Her team needed a win Sunday, and Sam Kerr delivered.
The National Women’s Soccer League’s leading scorer scored twice to pace the Chicago Red Stars to a 3-0 win against the Houston Dash. Kerr now has 15 goals this season, six ahead of second-place Christine Sinclair in the golden boot race.
“It was nice to finally win,” Kerr said, referring to the team losing the previous three matches, which caused the Red Stars to fall out of a playoff spot ahead of Sunday’s match. “We’ve obviously lost three in a row, so it was a bit of a grind for us, but it was nice.”
The win pushed the Red Stars (10-8-2, 32 points) back into playoff position at third in the NWSL standings. No. 4 Utah (9-6-4, 31 points) and No. 5 Reign FC (8-5-6, 30 points) are right behind with a game in hand for the final playoff spots.
“I think we knew that today was going to be a must-win to try and turn around our last couple games this season,” Red Stars defender Tierna Davidson said. “We want to be on the upward trend hopefully leading into playoffs, so I think this was an important start.”
In the seventh minute, Morgan Brian hit a through ball to Kerr to put her behind the defense down the left side. Kerr found a small opening at the near post and banged a shot off the inside of the post to beat Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell.
Kerr doubled the lead in the 40th minute with a first-touch shot just outside the box off an assist from Yuki Nagasato.
“I felt if we got to halftime at one-nil, we’d have had a chance, but once we gave away the second goal, it killed the game for us,” Houston coach James Clarkson said. “Yeah, really disappointed.”
Savannah McCaskill finished things off for the Red Stars with a goal in the 65th minute. It was McCaskill’s first goal since being traded to the Red Stars June 19.
“I’ve been shifted around a little bit, but I’m finally finding my groove in this team and with this new group of players,” McCaskill said. “I’m surrounded by great attackers, which makes it easy for me to fit right in.”
Houston (6-9-4, 22 points) had five shots. Alyssa Naeher came up with a big save on Rachel Daly in the first half to keep the Red Stars in front. Cece Kizer hit the goal frame late in the match.
The Red Stars lineup had a different look. Outside back Arin Wright was out sick, which caused a shift along the back line. Davidson and Julie Ertz, two World Cup winners this summer, paired at center back for the first time with the Red Stars.
Ertz has mostly played defensive midfield this season while Davidson has split her time between center back and left back. Sarah Gorden, who has been a revelation at center back this season, shifted to right back.
Brian, another World Cup winner, and Danielle Colaprico patrolled central midfield with Ertz moving back. Red Stars coach Rory Dames said it was Colaprico’s best match of the year “by far.”
“We’ve wanted to have them back there for a while,” Dames said of Davidson and Ertz. “Due to people being hurt in the midfield or people being hurt on the outside backs, … it just hasn’t worked out. This is the first game we’ve had where Vanessa (DiBernardo), Dani and Morgan were all able to go 90 minutes if need be, all three of them at the same time, so it was the first game we could push them back there.”