Although FC Kansas City still could not walk on its field at Swope Soccer Village, that did not stop the Blues from kicking off the season with a meet and greet at their new home Tuesday.
They ate pizza, danced with fans and unveiled new kits to an eager crowd of season-ticket holders, who got a sneak peak of FC Kansas City’s new home. It is their third site in three years, following Shawnee Mission District Stadium and the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Durwood Stadium.
However, that is not where the team will start the year.
Through a budding partnership with Sporting KC, the Blues will start their National Women’s Soccer League title defense at 3 p.m. Sunday at Sporting Park. They host Sky Blue FC.
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“We’ve been wanting that since we have been here, so to actually be playing there is very exciting,” goal keeper Nicole Barnhart said. “It’s such a cool environment to go to their games, and hopefully they can replicate that a little bit for our game. It’s such a great facility to be in, and even training here at Swope Park at these facilities is nice, too.”
In preparation, the Blues have put in four weeks of two-a-days and played three preseason games.
“It’s been a long, hard preseason,” Barnhart said. “I think we’re excited to get out and play an opponent other than ourselves. We’ve had a couple good college games to prepare, but it’s different when you get into a real game. We are all amped up to get going this weekend.”
The Blues posted a 12-7-5 record a year ago, which was second in the league, and went 8-0-4 in front of their home crowd. They defeated Seattle Reign FC 2-1 to win the title.
In the league’s first two years, they have proved to be the most consistent with back-to-back postseason berths and a league-best 23-13-10 record.
FC Kansas City brings back most of its starters with two-time NWSL Defender of the Year Becky Sauerbrunn and 2014 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year Lauren Holiday leading the way. The two, along with teammates Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly, spent their offseason with the women’s national team.
O’Reilly, who was acquired through a trade with the Boston Breakers, was the biggest offseason addition. She is joined by Yael Averbuch, who played with the Washington Spirit last year and was signed as a free agent, and Becca Moros, who was acquired from the Portland Thorns.
“Those are a couple of players that will fit in, and you will think that they have been with us since the first year,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “The players we picked up in the draft will take a little time to transition in, but they are players that will have no problem fitting into our system.”
The Blues once again turned to local talent in the draft picking Liberty graduates Shea Groom and Kaysie Clark. The two are the third and fourth local players with Lee’s Summit graduate Mandy Laddish and Blue Valley North’s Frances Silva.
The Blues also grabbed California goal keeper Katelyn Rowland. Missouri graduate Domi Richardson joined the team after open tryouts.
All FC Kansas City home games will be broadcast on a delay on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel, and away games will be streamed through the NWSL’s YouTube channel.