In an illustrious career that already includes two gold medals, there is one big hurdle for FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn.
Luckily, she will get a chance to end her professional championship-game drought when FC Kansas City travels to Seattle to face Reign FC for the National Women’s Soccer League title at 2 p.m. Sunday. The game will be shown on ESPN2.
“I’ve never been in a championship game with any of my pro teams so this is really big for me,” Sauerbrunn said. “It’s really amazing because there are some great teams in this league, so to make it this far is a real testament.”
Sauerbrunn has been playing professionally since she graduated from the University of Virginia in 2007 and bounced around several leagues as they have formed and folded in the last several years before she landed in Kansas City.
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Once she got here, though, she found a home, winning two NWSL Defensive Player of the Year awards and anchoring one of the most potent back lines in the league.
“It was almost a no-brainer,” Andonovski said of this year’s award. “I’ve said it before, but she is the best defender in the world. If you study the way she plays and some of the things she does, sometimes she makes them look so easy that she maybe doesn’t get enough credit, but the way she does the things are what make her special.”
Although Sauerbrunn is the biggest name on the defense, she is certainly not the only one having a standout season. She and defenders Kassey Kallman, Nikki Phillips, Leigh Ann Robinson, Amy LePeilbet, along with goalkeepers Nicole Barnhart and Sara Keane, combined for a league-best nine shutouts this season.
“You have to have a lot of trust in the people you play with and being teamed up with (Phillips) in the middle, I know that if I want to go for a long run she will have my back and vice versa,” Sauerbrunn said. “You also have to trust the people behind you, and with Sara and Barnie in goal you’re allowed to do different things and shine on your own.”
The defense will have to be on point again Sunday. The Blues will face an intimidating front line that includes league MVP Kim Little, who led the league with 16 goals and ranked second behind teammate Jessica Fishlock with eight assists.
“Not only is their offense so potent with the ball, but they also defend really well together, so I think a lot is going to be on our backline to play it safe, but also be composed enough to build it up out of the back and not just launch it,” Sauerbrunn said.
National Women’s Soccer League championship
WHO: FC Kansas City vs. Seattle Reign FC
WHEN/WHERE: 2 p.m. Sunday in Seattle