It had been more than 300 minutes since FC Kansas City had found the back of the net.
In the previous two games, the Blues’ offense had struggled to find a groove. The times they did, either they missed the presence of a second forward or they ended up on the wrong side of a referee’s call.
It seemed they were headed in the same direction Sunday at Swope Soccer Village. The winless Orlando Pride, which had allowed six goals this season, came to town raring to play a physical game and not concede any easy shots.
But in the 84th minute, down 1-0 after Orlando striker and five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta scored her first NWSL goal since joining the league in week two, FC Kansas City won a free kick. Yael Averbuch took it in optimal position and struck it into the goal box, where U.S. national team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris dived to her right to block it.
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FCKC had stacked the box, though, and on the ricochet, Erika Tymrak was able to squeak the ball into the goal for the equalizing shot. It was the last goal of the 1-1 game, the Blues’ first draw of the season.
“I was just trying to rush the box and cause havoc,” Tymrak said. “It definitely wasn’t a beautiful goal, but it was scrappy — and Ya(el)’s. It was definitely Ya’s.”
FCKC (1-2-1) had been shut out since opening the season at home with a 2-0 victory over Boston. At the point Tymrak scored on Sunday, Amy Rodriguez’s 48th-minute goal in the opener was the last one FCKC had celebrated.
Orlando (0-2-2) played the Blues close, keeping Shea Groom and Sydney Leroux under 30 touches each.
One of Groom’s touches came in the 12th minute, as she dribbled upfield through a crush of Orlando players. She crossed the ball to a sliding Katie Bowen on the right side, but Orlando conceded a corner kick to Averbuch. She found Lo’eau LaBonta, but LaBonta’s shot missed the bottom right corner.
Leroux had a prime chance to score in the 67th minute, 3 seconds after Harris blocked a LaBonta strike that nearly hit the crossbar. Leroux corralled the deflection and made a strike of her own. But Harris had just fallen to the ground, blocking Leroux’s attempt handily.
“Both teams were on a mission. Both teams came with a mind-set that they have to win this game or if nothing else, they can’t lose this game,” said FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski. “I think that we showed that even a little bit more after we got scored on. We turned it up a notch and at the end the result was us scoring a goal.”
While the offense struggled for a third straight game, Kansas City’s defense remained strong. The entire backfield, including Bowen and Brittany Ratcliffe, was instrumental in locking down Marta for the majority of the game. It seemed whenever she stepped to the left side of the goal in the first half, she had to make her cross through a pair of FCKC defenders. Then when the ball sailed out of the pocket, either Averbuch or Becky Sauerbrunn was there to kick it right back.
When Marta scored midway through the second half, she did it sneakily. Kristen Edmonds had won the ball from Tymrak, then passed it to Jasmyne Spencer near the center of the box. Spencer quickly tapped it to Marta, who flew out from behind Sauerbrunn and buried a shot from the left side.
“With players like Marta, she only needs one step or one touch and she can make a difference. But it is what it is,” Andonovski said. “We knew in order to catch up with them, we have to play together and we have to play for each other.”
The Blues will play host to the Portland Thorns on Saturday.
Maria Torres: 816-234-4379, @maria_torres3
FC Kansas City 1, Orlando Pride 1
ORLANDO: Marta (Jasmyne Spencer), 73rd minute.
FCKC: Erika Tymrak (Maegan Kelly), 84th.
Shots on goal
FCKC: Sydney Leroux , 46th; Maddy Evans, 60th.