Nearing the end of FC Kansas City’s first losing season in franchise history, head coach Vlatko Andonovski unleashed his frustrations.
The Blues tied the Chicago Red Stars 0-0 on Sunday night at Swope Soccer Village and moved to 6-8-5 on the season with one match to play. But it wasn’t the scoreless draw that stoked the fire under Andonovski. How the match ended, with a no-call in stoppage time, appeared to be the final straw.
In the final seconds of the match’s two minutes of stoppage time, Shea Groom took control of a ball in the penalty box. When she cut back towards the goal, Chicago defender Casey Short appeared to bump Groom. With the two players’ feet tangled, Groom fell to the ground, and FCKC’s last gasp at a win faded away.
To Andonovski, the referee’s failure to award a penalty kick is representative of a larger problem within the National Women’s Soccer League.
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“That’s a tough call; it’s 10 seconds before the end of the game, but that’s what a good referee does,” Andonovski said. “If it’s a penalty kick, it’s a penalty kick. … What that tells me is she (head referee Ekaterina Koroleva) doesn’t have the guts to call the tough calls. She’s done everything incredible until it comes down to the one tough call.”
Koroleva was not available for comment after the match.
Mathematically, Sunday’s match meant nothing for FCKC, which had already been eliminated from playoff content. It’s the first time in franchise history that the two-time National Women’s Soccer League champions have not made the postseason.
“The reason why it’s hard is not because we’re not in the playoffs; I think we’re not in the playoffs because of referees’ decisions,” Andonovski said. “It’s hard to say good luck in the playoffs to all the other teams and players and coaches because I know we belong there and the reason why we are not – I mean, we were, what? Five, six points away? I can show you where the referees made mistakes that cost us more than five or six points.”
Andonovski listed off several other instances this season where he felt like FCKC had been on the receiving end of poor calls (or no-calls). Central in his argument was another situation involving Groom: In FCKC’s June match against Seattle, both Groom and Reign FC forward Merritt Mathias ended up on the ground, and video showed Mathias pushing Groom’s head into the ground. At the time, there was no call, but the league later suspended Mathias after the submission of a new video angle.
“We have great referees,” Andonovski said. “It’s the tough calls they have trouble making.”
The night was a frustrating one overall for FCKC, even putting aside the match’s final seconds. The Blues’ closest chance came early on, in the eighth minute, when Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher had to make a diving, one-handed save on a point-blank shot from Brittany Taylor.
“I think I was a little surprised I was actually that wide open,” Taylor said. “I kind of slipped a little bit, lost my footing, but Alyssa made a great save on it as well. Just a great reaction save.”
Kansas City shot eight times Sunday, and held Chicago, who clinched a playoff spot with the draw, to three.
With Sunday’s result, Kansas City improved to seventh in the league – six points from the playoff red line, albeit too late. The team will play its season finale at Orlando on Sept. 24.
“I’m not (saying) this for myself,” Andonovski said. “I’m doing it for the players. It has nothing to do with me — ‘Oh, he’s a sore loser.’ No, these girls fought hard the whole season, and they deserve a spot in the playoffs. The referees took that away from them.”
FC KANSAS CITY 0, RED STARS 0
CHICAGO: Alyssa Naeher, Arin Gilliland (Sarah Gorden, 9th), Julie Johnston, Katie Naughton, Casey Short, 1Sofia Huerta, 1Cara Walls (Taylor Comeau, 81st), Danielle Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, Christen Press, Stephanie McCaffrey (Alyssa Mautz, 25th).
KANSAS CITY: Nicole Barnhart, Brittany Taylor, Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Arlitt (Katie Bowen, 70th), Tiffany McCarty (Frances Silva, 64th), Desiree Scott, Heather O’Reilly, Mandy Laddish, Caroline Kastor (Lo’eau LaBonta, 55th); Shea Groom.
Kansas City: None.
Shots on goal
Kansas City: None.
Kansas City: None.
Referee: Ekaterina Koroleva.
Assistant referee: Ben Wooten.
Assistant referee: Maggie Short.
4th official: Jon Freemon.
Announced attendance: 2,303.