It took an eight-match unbeaten streak for FC Kansas City to climb to the top of the National Women’s Soccer League standings.
Now it’s time to see if the Blues can stay there, starting with Sunday’s 5 p.m. match against second-place Sky Blue FC in Piscataway, N.J.
Sky Blue FC is one of two NWSL teams the Blues have yet to beat (0-1-1). Both matches were tough to take.
FC Kansas City lost 1-0 at home on May 25. The goal came on a penalty kick after Blues defender Lauren Sesselmann was issued a red card for taking down an opponent inside the 18-yard box.
The Blues led 2-0 on June 26 at Sky Blue FC, but settled for a draw after allowing goals in the 84th and 92nd minute.
“We have something to prove when we get in there, especially with the target on us after taking the number-one spot away from them. That’s huge. We have a lot to look forward to,” FC Kansas City midfielder Merritt Mathias said.
The Blues are 9-4-5, including a 4-0-4 record in their last eight matches. Sky Blue FC is 9-4-4 after losing 3-0 to Western New York in its last match.
FC Kansas City should start this three-match road trip with confidence after beating Seattle and Boston by a combined 5-0 margin in its last two games.
“I keep telling my players that every game is important, but when you come closer to the end of the season you realize how important it is. Now everyone realizes there is no room for mistakes and we have to do what we have to do to get the points,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said.
The top four teams make the playoffs, and the Blues have essentially locked up one of those spots.
Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs goes to the top team at the end of the regular season. A win on Sunday would be an enormous step toward ensuring the road to the inaugural NWSL title goes straight through Kansas City.
“We’ve come into our stride as a team in the right part of the season. There are things we can get better at, and we can’t let down when we’re away for the next couple games,” Mathias said. “The next couple games are huge. There’s a lot riding on it.”