FC Kansas City had a prime opportunity to move to the top of the National Women’s Soccer League standings on Wednesday night against the Boston Breakers.
By TODD ENGLE
Special to The Star
That opportunity seemed to be slipping away until a shot from Merritt Mathias bounced off Boston forward Kia McNeill and into the back of the net for an own goal in the 72nd minute.
The dam burst after that, and the Blues took first place with a 3-0 victory at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.
Courtney Jones added a goal in the 85th minute. Mathias followed that with a nifty volley from the top of the 18-yard box in the 90th minute.
“It was not frustration as much as impatience,” Blues coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “We wanted to get to the goal as soon as possible, and by doing that we were getting away from our game a little bit. Soccer is a weird game. Sometimes it bounces your way, sometimes it bounces the other way.”
Mathias was actually looking to cross the ball in front of the Boston net. She was as surprised as the 5,024 in attendance when the Blues took the lead.
“Their defense was running backward and got a touch on the ball and it ended up in the back of the net,” Mathias said. “We needed something to get us going. Fighting for first is a huge thing right now for us.”
FC Kansas City, 9-4-5, pushed its unbeaten streak to eight matches and now has 32 points, one ahead of Sky Blue FC, which just so happens to be its next opponent.
Boston, 5-7-5, tried to open up to equalize but couldn’t find much room to operate.
“It kind of felt like whoever got the first goal was going to be able to take advantage of it,” Boston coach Lisa Cole said. “Kia kind of misdirects the clearance there. I don’t know if it was a miscommunication or miscue, but it’s unfortunate we give up an own goal.”
The Blues took advantage. Jones knocked home a point-blank feed from Lauren Holiday for the second goal.
“Once you go ahead 2-0 in a game, the only thing you’re thinking about in your head is to keep that win,” Jones said. “In my head, after that goal, we’re thinking defensively.”
The celebration began in earnest after that. FC Kansas City debuted an alternate black uniform set, which can be safely kept in the rotation after a decisive victory.
The Blues won’t return home until the regular-season finale on Aug. 18. They embark on a three-match road trip, starting Sunday with Sky Blue FC. Then it’s on to third-place Portland before a rematch at Boston.
“I think right now it’s all about points. Boston wasn’t necessarily a huge game because of the team, but it was a huge game because we needed to get those points,” Jones said. “Looking forward, we’re going to be playing two huge games coming up, Sky Blue and Portland. At this point we need those three points to continue to be in first place. That’s what we’re worried about mostly right now. Every time we get on the field we’re coming after it.”