FC Kansas City’s upcoming four-game home stretch could not have come at a much better time for the defending National Women’s Soccer League champions.
For the first time in the league’s three seasons, the Blues are in the position at the end of the season of having to fight their way into the playoffs, and Saturday’s game against a direct contender will be decisive. FC Kansas City will host the Western New York Flash at 7 p.m. Saturday at Swope Soccer Village in what coach Vlakto Andonovski is calling a must-win.
FC Kansas City lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Portland in 2013 and defeated the Seattle Reign FC in the championship last year.
“If we don’t win this game, I don’t think that we are going to have a very good chance to make it through,” Andonovski said.
FC Kansas City, which has five more regular season games, enters Saturday’s match ranked sixth in the league with a 5-6-4 record, and the Western New York Flash is just one point behind at 5-7-3. The Blues are tied points-wise with fifth-place Portland and trail the Houston Dash by one point. The top four teams will advance to the NWSL playoffs.
“The first year we had three teams that were first place with the same amount of points and now you are going to have four teams with the same amount of points fighting for the last spot,” Andonovski said.
“At the end of the day, it is good for the players, good for the league and good for the fans because they are seeing quality soccer and you have to bring your best.”
Adding to the excitement has been the return of the allocated FIFA Women’s World Cup players like FC Kansas City’s Becky Sauerbrunn, Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly, who played for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the World Cup. The Blues are 0-1-2 with the champions back on the field.
“We went on a run the first and second seasons with long unbeaten streaks, so we are just trying to find our flow," Sauerbrunn said. “We are starting to peak in training and feeling really good especially (Friday), so if we start on a good foot (Saturday) we can ride that wave toward the end of playoffs.”
FC Kansas City has the early advantage on paper given their 1-0-1 record in the season series against the Flash. Both games against Western New York were close with the Blues winning 1-0 on the road and playing to a scoreless draw at home in consecutive games at the end of May.
Western New York Flash at FC Kansas City
▪ WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. Saturday at Swope Soccer Village
▪ TV: TWCSC