With one-fifth of the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season gone, FC Kansas City has matched a league-low with only one loss. A pair of national websites have pegged the Blues as the early-season team to beat.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
It’s hard to argue with their talent. FC Kansas City will have six players featured in next month’s friendly between the United States and Canada women’s national teams. No other team in the league has more.
But while things seem to be sailing along smoothly so far, FC Kansas City midfielder Kristie Mewis sees plenty of room for improvement. But where?
“It’s time we started getting a couple of more goals,” Mewis said. “We’ve spent a lot of time working on finishing our chances. We’re scoring goals, but we could easily get a couple of more if we finish our chances.”
In that case, now would be a good time to start.
FC Kansas City will play host to perhaps the league’s top defense when it meets Sky Blue FC at 7:35 p.m. Saturday at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium. Sky Blue has posted three consecutive shutouts and four in seven games.
That’s not exactly a surprise, of course, given its defense is led by U.S. national team player Christine Rampone in the back. Rampone was awarded the National Women’s Soccer League’s player of the week after helping Sky Blue keep previously-unbeaten Portland off the scoreboard. The road victory moved Sky Blue into a tie with Portland atop the league standings with 16 points. FC Kansas City, 3-1-1, sits in third place with 10, thought it has played two fewer games than both first-place teams.
“They’re tough because they don’t have a weakness on the field,” FC KC coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “We watched Sky Blue and thought, ‘What are we going to do?’ They have three quality forwards, and they’re obviously so solid in the back.”
His solution? Get more players involved offensively.
While scoring hasn’t necessarily been a problem for FC Kansas City — its seven goals are fifth in the league — Andonovski is searching for more diversity in his offense. Two players have accounted for six of those seven scores, with Renae Cuellar’s four and Lauren Cheney’s two.
“We just want to work the ball around with our possession game,” Andonovski said. “If we do that, the goals will come.”
Even against a top-tier defense.
FC Kansas City has proved just as solid defensively. The Blues have allowed the fewest goals in the league with three.
That defense will be aided by the likely return of captain Becky Sauerbrunn, who missed last week’s 2-0 home victory against Boston with a sore hamstring. Sauerbrunn has participated in training this week and is on target to return Saturday night.
Without her last week, FC Kansas City was forced to shift around a few players in its lineup. Nevertheless, it posted yet another shutout — its second in three home games.
“I think something the league is starting to show is it’s not going to be easy to win on the road,” Andonovski said. “That means you have to take a lot of pride in playing on your home field. So far, everything is going well, and hopefully we can keep it going.”