Saturday’s match between FC Kansas City and the Boston Breakers featured two of the top defenses in the National Women’s Soccer League, not to mention two of the league’s top scorers.
FCKC’s defense took a hit before the match even started, when captain Becky Sauerbrunn couldn’t go because of a hamstring injury.
Still, the defense held firm.
The offense, led by forward Renae Cuellar, was up to the challenge as well. Cuellar’s goal in the 17th minute helped propel FCKC to a 2-0 victory at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.
FCKC improved to 3-1-1, while handing Boston its first loss of the season. The Breakers, 2-1-2, were the last unbeaten team in the eight-team NWSL.
The Blues are now alone in second place in the NWSL standings, behind league leaders Sky Blue FC and Portland.
Cuellar used a nifty piece of soccer skill with a brilliant first touch that allowed her to settle a pass from Lauren Cheney.
It was all Cuellar after that. She held off a Boston defender and beat Boston goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago by tucking a shot inside the right post.
It was Cuellar’s fourth goal of the season, and she is now tied with Boston’s Sydney Leroux for the NWSL lead in goals.
FCKC scored its second goal of the match in the 65th minute. Midfielder Casey Loyd lofted a free kick toward the Boston net from some 45 yards away. Cheney tracked it and was able to chest the ball into the yawning net for her second goal of the season.
The return of FCKC’s stingy defensive ways was a welcome sight after the Blues let Western New York superstar Abby Wambach score twice in a 2-1 loss last week.
On Saturday, Jen Buczkowski slid into the defensive opening created by Sauerbrunn’s absence. That moved some other players around as well. The defense proved solid despite some new moving parts.
Boston generated some offense, but nothing that was enough to make FCKC goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart sweat. Boston’s best chance in the second half was a free kick in the 60th minute that Barnhart read with ease.
The Blues dominated the second half other than that chance. FCKC made a point to test Santiago early and often with shots, many of them from distance.
Cuellar was called offside a handful of times, but her aggressive nature kept the Boston defense on its toes.
FCKC midfielder Lauren Sesselman limped off with a leg injury in the 80th minute. She was replaced by Katie Kelly.
The announced attendance was 4,362. FCKC was second in the NWSL in attendance coming into the match, averaging 5,424 fans per match.