During the last couple of weeks, FC Kansas City personnel has expressed the desire to throw its team in the mix as one of the best the National Women’s Soccer League has to offer.
For now, though, the wait continues. The Blues are winless in three games against the league’s top two teams and remain in fifth place in the league standings.
But they may have found the signs they’ve been searching for during a 4-3 loss in Portland on Thursday night. They fell behind by a two-goal margin three times Thursday, and every time they cut into the lead.
“You know what, I like our squad,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “The girls fought hard the whole game, especially in the second half. We had a good thing going. It showed a lot of character about this team.”
At the end of the day, though, it’s still a loss. And as FC Kansas City prepares for a match at 9 p.m. Sunday in Seattle, it’s in danger of falling below .500 for the first time this season.
The Blues, 3-3-1, have already twice beaten Seattle, the league’s only winless team at 0-7-1. Both victories came by shutout, so perhaps Sunday will provide a return to form for a defense that uncharacteristically broke down several times in Portland.
“We’ve got to fix those things in the back and get ready for Seattle,” Andonovski said. “No squad in this league is an easy opponent. They can all take advantage when you make mistakes in the back.”
The Blues will be aided by the return of defender Lauren Sesselmann, who served a mandatory one-game suspension Thursday after being issued a red card in a loss to Sky Blue FC on May 25.
Her return, however, will be countered by the likely absence of top goal scorer Renae Cuellar, who sprained her left ankle and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in Thursday’s loss. Portland defender Rachel Buehler took out Cuellar in the goalie box, resulting in a penalty kick, which Lauren Cheney successfully executed as part of a two-goal night. Cuellar left the game and did not return.
Cuellar and Cheney are tied for the team lead with four goals apiece.
“It will be good to have (Sesselmann) back, but we have to be able to play without anyone,” Andonovski said. “We’re not always going to be at full strength. Good teams find a way to win without their full squad.”
An offensive attack searching for more versatility showed some signs of life after Cuellar’s departure.
In her first start of the season, midfielder Erika Tymrak scored her first career professional goal — and hinted that she believes that’s a sign of things to come.
“It’s unfortunate that we scored three goals and lost, but I think there’s a lot we can take from this game,” Tymrak said. “We proved to ourselves that we can fight to the end.”