Three reasons Sam Kerr and Australia can beat the USWNT

(Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

The USWNT’s final Group G match will be a decisive one.

The United States needs at least a draw in their Tuesday game against Australia to comfortably advance out of the group stage in Tokyo. Though the U.S. is favored heading into the matchup, Australia still has the capacity to upset the USWNT on the international stage.

Here are three reasons why Australia could give the USWNT trouble:

1. Two words: Sam Kerr

Sam Kerr has long been Australia’s not-so-secret weapon. The Matildas striker is arguably one of the best goal-scorers in the world and is coming off a golden-boot season at the club level with Chelsea. Though Australia has garnered criticism for relying too heavily on Kerr, the team’s Kerr-centered game plan often pays off: the Matildas captain has already notched three goals in Australia’s two group stage matches.

The way Sam Kerr scores goals could also prove problematic for a shaky USWNT backline. Kerr is one of the best in the world at exposing gaps in defenses, something the U.S. has been struggling with in the team’s first two games. How the USWNT chooses to handle Kerr could ultimately determine the squad’s Olympic fate moving forward.

2. NWSL Familiarity

Australia and the United States have a history. Not only have the teams met 30 times, but many of the Australian and American athletes have also played together at the club level.

Sam Kerr played in the NWSL from 2013-2019 before being traded to Chelsea. She’s still the league’s all-time leading goalscorer.

In her final season with the league, Kerr played for the Chicago Red Stars, sharing the pitch with the likes of Julie Ertz, Casey Krueger and Tierna Davidson. Now the former teammates will go head-to-head for their respective national teams, and their shared history could prove beneficial for Kerr.

Haley Raso also has NWSL experience, playing with the Portland Thorns from 2016-2019 before being traded to the WSL’s Everton in 2020. Raso’s intimate knowledge of former teammate Lindsey Horan’s playing tendencies could aid the Matildas in Tuesday’s matchup, especially after Horan played a crucial role in the USWNT’s win over New Zealand.

Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, Emily van Egmond and Ellie Carpenter are also among the Matildas contributors who have spent significant time in the NWSL.

The bottom line is that this Australian squad won’t be intimidated by the challenge of going toe-to-toe with the world’s most dominant team.

3. Tony Gustavsson knows the USWNT

Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson knows the USWNT better than most, having been a longtime member of the US coaching staff, first in 2014 under Pia Sundhage.

In 2015, Gustavsson moved to the assistant coach role under Jill Ellis, leading the U.S. to back-to-back World Cup wins in 2015 and 2019.

Gustavsson was named head coach of the Matildas in 2020 after five years with the USWNT.

The former USWNT assistant coach’s intimate knowledge of the U.S. system is an advantage few hold. Gustavsson is well-positioned to pick apart the U.S., having coached most of the players to a World Cup only two years ago.

While the USWNT will remain the favorites heading into Tuesday’s match, it’s impossible to count out an Australian squad which is so familiar with the US, has possibly the best player on the pitch in Kerr, and is led by a coach with the inside knowledge to tailor his tactics to the US.

Tune in: The USWNT and Australia will face off on Tuesday at 4 a.m. ET on the USA Network.