For a few minutes in the second half, it seemed FC Kansas City would take another hit to a promising season when forward Shea Groom crumpled to the field at Toyota Park in Chicago on Saturday afternoon.
But after getting her jaw checked for a few minutes, Groom, who collided with the Red Stars’ Sam Johnson in the 69th minute, missed no time on the field. She couldn’t get much offense going, but neither could the rest of the Blues as they opened back to back road matches with a 1-0 loss to Chicago.
FCKC was playing its first game since striker Amy Rodriguez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during the team's season-opening win last week. Rodriguez, out for the season, scored one of the team's two goals in the game.
Chicago controlled the ball in the first half, putting 11 shots on goal to FCKC’s three. FCKC did a better job moving up the field after halftime, but Chicago continued to limit the Blues’ fast-break opportunities.
FCKC finished with 11 shots on goal, three each from Groom and midfielder Katie Bowen.
“I think it was a change of mentality and urgency (in the second half),” coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “That was one of the things we talked about right after the game. We have to start the game with the same urgency that we finish it.”
Kansas City’s defense kept Chicago off the board for the majority of the first half thanks in part to goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who last year put together one of her best NWSL seasons with a league-leading 83 saves.
Barnhart made four saves on Saturday. One of Chicago’s attempts came from the top of the box in the 27th minute when Julie Johnston Ertz headed a cross from Casey Short point blank at Barnhart. As she dove to the ground, Barnhart swatted the ball with her right forearm at Christina Gibbons, who kicked it away.
Barnhart didn’t have the same luck on Ertz’s next shot in the 41st minute. Gibbons tried to contain Sofia Huerta on the right side, but Huerta spun out of reach and crossed to Ertz, who punched the ball into the right corner before Barnhart could react.
“Barnie has been Barnie,” Andonovski said. “She’s a good leader from the back and makes the saves she needs to make and some more. That’s why she’s been Goalkeeper of the Year and has the most shutouts than anyone else in the league.”
FC Kansas City was able to contain forward Jen Hoy, who never got off a shot, but only got lucky when it came to striker Christen Press.
Press had 11 shots, including seven on goal, and could have outdone Barnhart twice in the second half. With Barnhart in the top right corner of the penalty box in the 65th minute, she hit the post with a shot.
Her previous shot came on a penalty kick, when the ball sailed to the top right corner and missed. Barnhart had moved in the opposite direction of her kick.
One of FCKC’s best chances to score came in the 53rd minute when Brittany Taylor’s free kick from midfield bounced into the center of the box. Groom chased it, breaking through a trio of Chicago defenders, but her up-close shot soared high over the goal.
“I think that our offense starting from the back is good, but it’s in the middle where it gets broken up,” Andonovski said. “Hopefully we can fix the little things we need to fix in the middle so we can provide more for the (top).”
FC Kansas City (1-1), which was shut out nine times last year, will next play at Sky Blue FC in New Jersey on April 30.
Red Stars 1
FC Kansas City 0
FC Kansas City
KANSAS CITY: Nicole Barnhart, Christina Gibbons, Becky Sauerbrunn, Yael Averbuch, Brittany Taylor, Lo’aeu LaBonta, Becca Moros (Caroline Flynn, 58th), Katie Bowen, Alexa Newfield (Erika Tymrak, 58th); Sydney Leroux (Maegan Kelly, 73rd), Shea Groom.
CHICAGO: Alyssa Naeher, Arin Gilliland, Katie Naughton, Sam Johnson, Casey Short, Julie Ertz (Alyssa Mautz, 87th), Danielle Colaprico, Sofia Huerta (Morgan Proffitt, 87th), Vanessa DiBernardo, Jen Hoy (McCaffrey, 72nd), Christen Press.
Kansas City: None.
Chicago: 1, Johnston (Guerta), 41st minute.
Shots on goal
Kansas City: None.