Lauren Holiday distinctly remembers that a laugh was FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski’s first response when she mapped out her plans for the final year of her professional career.
It was a simple three part plan: win the National Women’s Soccer League title with the Blues, help the U.S. women’s national team win its first Women’s World Cup since 1999 and then retire to focus on her family.
Well, it was the kind of plan a player like Holiday can make look simple as she prepares to start phase three at 7 p.m. Thursday as the Blues play host the Washington Spirit in her final regular-season game at Swope Soccer Village. FCKC is going for its fourth straight victory and shutout.
“I think it hit me right after the World Cup, so I have gone through my emotional side,” Holiday said. “I have no idea how I will react Thursday, but I think I am in a good place with it.”
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Her emotions will be tested even further when the team retires her No. 12 jersey prior to the game. The Blues also will be collecting donations for CHD Babies and raffling off signed memorabilia like a team-signed jersey to fans who contribute to Holiday’s charity of choice.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all, but this organization has shown me nothing but class and they have welcomed me with open arms,” Holiday said. “I am really honored that they feel it is necessary to retire my jersey.”
Andonovski, who consistently refers to Holiday as the “glue” of the team, said it was a no-brainer as they were trying to figure out how to honor her. It will be the franchise’s first retired jersey.
“She helped us build the foundation of professional women’s soccer in Kansas City, so we are very grateful for that and personally I am honored to say that I coached an individual and a player like her,” Andonovski said. “I think it’s the least that we can do for her with everything she has done and how much she has meant here.”
And she has done quite a lot in three short years with the franchise, earning NWSL MVP honors in 2013, championship MVP in 2014 and helping the Blues lock up their third consecutive playoffs appearance this season.
Despite playing just seven games between national-team duties and a hip injury this season, she still found a way to make her mark on the team logging 606 minutes with two goals and two assists. She ranks fourth among all Blues in shots and shots on goal.