If a hot, humid Sunday afternoon on the artificial grass provided a harbinger for what the final month of the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season will entail — and FC Kansas City players believe it did — expect the next four weeks to include some grueling, grind-it-out soccer.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
A match Sunday between FC Kansas City and Western New York turned physical early and stayed laborious until the final moments.
It also stayed scoreless.
Sunday in front of 5,031 fans at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium, FC Kansas City and Western New York battled to a 0-0 draw — a score not exactly indicative of the tense moments the match supplied.
FC Kansas City put 10 shots on goal, but each was turned aside by Flash goalie Adrianna Franch, a product of Salina, Kan. In return, Blues center backs Lauren Sesselmann and Becky Sauerbrunn kept Western New York star Abby Wambach off the scoreboard, while keeper Nicole Barnhart earned her seventh clean sheet of the season.
“They're strong defenders,” Wambach said. “We had a great battle going all game. I didn’t score a goal, so in my opinion, they get the win for the day.”
Ah, but the standings reflect otherwise. FC Kansas City extended its unbeaten streak to five games with the draw Sunday, but it missed an opportunity to move into second place in the NWSL standings with a victory.
The Blues, 7-4-4, weren't without their scoring chances, though, especially in the waning moments. Franch was forced to make three saves in the final seven minutes. Erika Tymrak had one of the game’s best chances in the 83rd minute, cruising down the left side before getting a clean left-footed look at the goal. Franch stoned her shot.
“I’m going to be kicking myself in the butt for that one for a while,” Tymrak said.
The FC Kansas City defense was equally strong in its defense of Wambach, the team all-time leading scorer for the United States women’s national team. Wambach netted two goals when the same teams met on May 11, but Sesselmann and Sauerbrunn opted for a more physical brand of play Sunday. It proved effective.
“Anytime you’re playing against Abby, it’s going to be a battle,” Sesselmann said. “You have to give it to her as much as she gives it to you.
“But I’m not going to lie — I’m a little exhausted right now.”
The newest additions for FC Kansas City each made their team debuts Sunday. Added in a trade with Seattle on Monday, midfielder Teresa Noyola subbed into the match in the 74th minute. Midfielder Tiffany Cameron entered in the 86th minute.
The Blues played for the second straight game without Lauren Holiday — formerly Lauren Cheney — who married NBA point guard Jrue Holiday over the weekend.
“The scary part is one of the best players in the entire league wasn't here,” Wambach said. “When you add Lauren Cheney to the mix, the way this team is playing right now, they’re a top contender for the championship.”
Cheney will return for the team's next match, a road date in Chicago on July 14. She leads the team with eight goals, second most in the NWSL.