FIFA Best lists come out: The Case for Sam Kerr — Kristine Lilly talks FIFA Best — Must-click woso links

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, January 10, 2022

Sam Kerr has made the final three for the FIFA Best awards, joining Spain’s Jenni Hermoso and Alexia Putellas.

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Putellas, a 27-year-old midfielder for Barcelona, won Ballon d’Or honors. She scored in Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over Chelsea last may in the Champions League Final. She went on to earn UEFA Player of the Year honors and was honored as the top player of the year for the Spanish national team. Hermoso, her Barcelona and national team teammate, is the top career scorer for both teams.

And there’s Kerr. Not to take anything away from the accomplishments of Putellas and Hermoso, both wonderful players who have been responsible for Spain’s rise on the international stage, but I believe Kerr’s season with Chelsea, as well as the Australian national team at the Olympics, deserves recognition.

It’s the fifth time Kerr has made the shortlist of 11 players for the FIFA Best award. With Chelsea, she won the WSL Golden Boot for the 2020-21 season with 21 goals in 22 games, and leads the league again this season with nine goals (and three assists) in nine games.

She scored six goals for the Matildas in the Olympics last summer, leading the team to its best finish ever in the games.

Her overall value to the teams she’s played for is obvious. Kerr makes those around her better.

The winners will be announced on Jan. 17! So stay tuned.

Also, here are the top three coach nominees. Disappointed Bev Priestman isn’t on this list.

And there’s the Best goalkeeper of 2021, too. The sentimental favorite here is Labbe, who led Canada to the gold medal at the Olympics after some well-documented struggles. But Endler is so fun to watch and has made such an impact for both club and country.

A quick word about Twitter before we move on to the links. After a really bad experience with the platform this week, I’m taking an extended break.

I have come to the obvious conclusion that in many cases, Twitter posts are simply not representative of the whole person behind them. Let’s face it, some people just suck at Twitter and have difficulty boiling complex, nuanced thoughts and opinions into 280 characters or a thread. Not everything is absolute. And the resulting labels put on people are often inaccurate and unfair. Other times, we’re looking at the accounts of young people who cannot fully grasp the consequences of their actions. People can, and do, evolve.

So, going forward, I’m going to be relying less on Twitter, and I’ve already stopped posting very much to my account, except for the random stat, or promoting my work or the work of other journalists. I’m going to withhold judgment on people for what they have posted, and I’m not going to share controversial takes that promote targeted harassment. I’m going to pick up the phone more often and just talk to people. The Twitter links I use here for The IX here will be from team, league or similarly verified accounts. My DMs are still open if you have stories you want to point out, or comments.

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On to the Links!

Really good story from NPR about a girls’ team from Afghanistan.

Neil Davidson for the Canadian Press on Priestman’s snub.

Steph Yang writes for The Athletic about the ongoing saga surrounding the sale of the Washington Spirit, and why it looks horrible for the league.

A bit of breaking news from this morning before I got up: Lynn Williams is headed to the Kansas City Current.

90min profiled the finalists for the FIFA Best.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf had an exclusive interview with Kate Markgraf.

Kassouf also put together this handy international calendar!

One final one from Kassouf on the new RSL owners looking to add an NWSL team.

ESPN’s Caitlin Murray broke the story that Carlos Cordeiro is running for U.S. Soccer president.

Murray also wrote about Megan Rapinoe’s reaction to the news.

Sports Business Journal on the negotiations between the NWSL and the players’ union.

The Current hires Camille Levin as GM.

Jen Cooper of Keeper Notes graded the NWSL teams heading into the 2022 season.

The Chicago Tribune profiles Houston draftee Ryan Gareis.

Jaelin Howell won the Hermann Trophy.

The SheBelieves Cup opponents, dates announced.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald talked to people about the Cordiero candidacy.

One more good one from Caitlin about how the biennial World Cup would hurt the women’s game.

The Athletic’s take on Cordiero.

Good interview of Kim Wyant from SI.

Five at The IX: What Kristine Lilly had to say at the FIFA Best unveiling

So I’m short on interviews for this week (Been working a lengthy Trail Blazers homestand as well as an MLS Project!) So here’s a bit about what the legendary Kristine Lilly had to say in announcing the FIFA Best finalists.

Question: Three fantastic players. Who will make it?

Lilly: That’s a good question. I think when you look at it, it looks like the Spaniards are teaming up on Sam Kerr there (laughs). … You have two forwards in there, Jennifer Hermosa and Sam Kerr. I’m a midfielder so my heart might be tending to go closer to Alexia there. Playmaker. Kind of the quarterback of the whole team and everything. But it’s difficult. I think you’ve seen Jennifer scoring goals, Sam scoring goals. It’ll be a hard choice. Sam Kerr, she’s one player that I’ve seen a bit more of because she played in the U.S. for a while. She’s been a great player for Australia for so long, and obviously making impact on Chelsea. So it won’t be an easy decision. My heart might be leaning a little bit more towards Alexia my little midfielder. I think it’s a great top three that we have to choose from and all three players should be super proud of their season and what they’ve done to the game so far.

Question: With Australia about to host the World Cup with New Zealand, it could be Sam Kerr’s year, right?

Lilly: It could be. I mean, she well deserves it and obviously leading into Australia hosting with New Zealand, it would be a great attribute to her and to her country and really help promote the game there as well. I do love her so it makes it so hard for me. I’m glad I don’t have to pick. But well deserved, whoever wins, but Sam Kerr leading into the World Cup would be great.

Question: One year we have Americans, then French players and last year Lucy Bronze wins, and now Spain. That something about women’s football.

Lilly: I think just what the Spanish team has done, I mean, they’ve grown so much and they’ve played so well. I’ve just seen them recently play quite a bit. So just to see such a variety of different players. I mean, Marta dominated forever. A bunch of U.S. players have been in there forever. So just to see players starting to elevate in different parts of the world is great to see for the women’s game as well.

Question: What dies it say that there are no U.S. players among the finalists, and which countries do you think will rise globally?

Lilly: I think seeing the finalists, like we talked about, two Spanish players and an Australian player — Sam Kerr has been around for a bit and always competing for the highest player up there. And no U.S. players. But I think you overall, you’ve seen the World Cup in 2019, the growth of the game, the commitment to the women’s game, from not only from FIFA, but from governing bodies all over the world. They’re investing in the women’s game. And when you start to invest in something, you’re showing it’s important, that it matters and I think these players now are seeing that people are caring about the game, and this has given them an opportunity to grow their game. I think that’s just all great news for the women’s side. … Some of those first-time teams in the World Cup are getting the exposure of playing at the highest level and now when they go back to train their countries are like `Alright, we want to invest in this team because we want them to be competing to be the best and win a World Cup.’ That makes it even more important for these governing bodies to start investing in the women’s side. So the game is looking bright for the women. You’ve seen so much happening with the pro leagues all over the world as well. And the international game at the highest level, it’s just been great. I mean, you look at Canada winning the Olympics first time and so all these wonderful things that are happening. Obviously I’m still rooting for our U.S. team and I know they’ll always be a top competitor in the World Cup and Olympics, but it’s great to see just the growth of the game and seeing these players have the time to be recognized as well.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson