Walking into practice on Monday morning FC Kansas City, coach Vlatko Andonovski was shocked at his team’s excitement over its recently announced semifinals matchup.
Portland Thorns FC’s roster is full of intimidating star-power, and the Blues had already lost twice to them in the regular season, but this was about much more.
The team was hungry for revenge which stemmed back to last year’s overtime loss to Portland in the National Women’s Soccer League semifinals.
The Blues turned to the U.S. national-team duo of Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez, who led the way to a 2-0 victory and sealed a bid in the NWSL championship game on a steamy Saturday afternoon at UMKC’s Durwood Stadium, where the temperature of the artificial turf reached 159 degrees when measured by a field supervisor with an infrared thermometer.
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“They felt like this was the only way they could redeem themselves,” Andonovski said. “You have to love a team like that. All I had to do was put them on the field and they did the rest.”
In last year’s playoff game, FC Kansas City took a 2-0 lead in the first half but gave up three unanswered goals, including the game-winner in the 103rd minute.
This time, the story was much different.
The first shot of the game came in the 14th minute and the two teams combined for 10 shots in the first half, but went to the locker room in a scoreless tie. It was the first time in four matchups this year that there was no goals in the first half.
It was scoreless until the 63rd minute when Holiday found Rodriguez running down the left side of the field and fed her the ball. Rodriguez charged forward into a one-on-one with Portland goalkeeper Nadine Angerer and scored her 14th goal of the season. It was the fifth time Holiday and Rodriguez connected on a goal this season.
“She drug her player wide and then cut back across the face of the goal which is hard to defend, especially in this heat with how quick she is,” Holiday said. “I knew that any ball I played in that vicinity she would put it in. It was a world-class goal.”
Rodriguez subbed out later in the half, but her replacement, Sarah Hagen, picked up the slack assisting on Holiday’s goal in the 87th minute, which sealed the victory. It was Holiday’s ninth goal of the season.
In the title game, FC Kansas City will face either Seattle Reign FC or the Washington Spirit, who play Sunday at 10 p.m. The championship game will kick off at 2 p.m. next Sunday at the home field of the higher seed.