A return to the familiarity and security of their home turf at Swope Soccer Village turned out to be exactly what FC Kansas City’s struggling offense needed.
The Blues, who entered the match with a five-game winless streak and just three goals in that span, broke loose for a 3-0 victory against the Washington Spirit on Friday night in front of 2,079 hometown fans. It was the team’s first three-goal game of the season.
The defending National Women’s Soccer League champions improved to 2-2-1 at home and 4-5-2 on the season with the victory.
"We all knew that we had to turn it around and turn it around tonight," FC Kansas City midfielder Liz Bogus said. "We believe in ourselves and know we are a great team. It is still possible to turn this season around completely and get a playoff spot."
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The Blues took the lead in the 26th minute thanks to an aggressive move by Liberty High School graduate Shea Groom. She was tripped up by Washington’s Estelle Johnson, who was assessed a yellow card.
Yael Averbuch took the ensuing free kick from the edge of the box and chipped it up over a wall of five defenders. It sailed past Kelsey Wys and into the left side of the net for Averbuch’s first goal with the Blues. She was signed as a free agent during the offseason after playing 22 matches with one goal and one assist for the Spirit in 2014.
Sarah Hagen had a chance to extend the lead moments later when she fired a shot from the right side. The ball was caught by Wys, but bobbled before she finally cleared it.
After the break, Bogus sent a cross from left to right and connected with Frances Silva, who headed the ball back into the center of the field for Groom. She went one-on-one with Wys and scored in the 53rd minute. It was her third goal of her rookie campaign.
Bogus extended the lead in the 65th when she received a cross from Leigh Ann Robinson in front of the goal. Still airborne, she connected and knocked the ball into the back of the net. It was also her third goal to keep her on pace with Groom for the team lead.
FC Kansas City entered the match ranked second to last in the NWSL with just eight goals in 10 games. The Spirit, who were held scoreless for FC Kansas City’s fifth shutout, were ranked third with 16 goals in 10 games. It was the fourth shutout for Blues’ goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
"We did not get the offense going because we were doing so many different things, it was because we wanted it more than them," FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. "We wanted to win every tackle, win every 50-50 ball and get numbers in the box and get behind the ball. It was all about the willingness and the heart."
The Blues had a scary moment in the ninth minute when Hagen fell to the turf clutching her left knee. She popped back up, but treated it gingerly until she subbed off in the 36th minute to meet with trainers on the sideline. Andonovski said she tweaked it at practice on Thursday and re-aggravated it during the game.
Groom’s former Liberty teammate Kaysie Clark made her professional debut in the 84th minute, subbing in for Bogus. Clark, a Missouri graduate, was selected with the 35th pick of the 2015 NWSL College Draft.