FC Kansas City defender Nikki Phillips could not help but smile as she prepared to leave the crowded back room at The Granfalloon on Ward Parkway this Wednesday. After all, this was the triumphant homecoming for the Blues, who captured the National Women’s Soccer League title on Sunday with a 2-1 victory against Seattle Reign FC.
“It’s been so awesome to come back to KC and the love and support after winning in Seattle,” Phillips said.
Due to national team call-ups and family commitments, only a handful of players were on hand, but they made the rounds, signing autographs and posing with the trophy they had tucked away in the back corner. The team also gave out championship shirts and trading cards for each of the players that were present.
Part of what made this year’s victory even more satisfying was the fact that the Blues felt they fell short a year ago. The team appeared to have all the pieces in place last year and the league took notice as the Blues swept the postseason awards for rookie, defender, goalkeeper and coach of the year, in addition to Golden Boot and MVP. However, that team fell in the semifinals to eventual champion Portland Thorns FC.
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“Every team talks about peaking at the right time, and last year I think we peaked too early,” defender Leigh Ann Robinson said. “This year, everything fell into place finally.”
That can be traced back to precautionary adjustments coach Vlatko Andonovski and his staff made to their training schedule throughout the season to ensure an energetic finish.
“We took a little different approach through the whole season, and the fact that we had enough quality players to rotate so we could rest them at key moments gave us an edge at the end of the season,” Andonovski said. “We had fresh minds and fresh legs and were ready to perform and be the best that we could be.”
The Blues ended the season with a 12-7-5 record, which ranked second in the league and gave them the best two-year record at 23-13-10. In the process, they also brought home the area’s third national soccer title, joining Sporting Kansas City, which won the Major League Soccer Cup, and the Missouri Comets, which won the Major Indoor Soccer League title earlier this year. Andonovski also coaches the Comets.
“I’m extremely happy with what we’ve created here as a team and organization,” Andonovski said. “Being able to create a team that is not just competitive on the field, but is also role models for young soccer players off the field and being able to establish an organization that other teams are going to strive to be like is a great accomplishment.”
Andonovski said he will take a few days to enjoy the victory but is already visiting college teams and preparing for next year’s NWSL draft.
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