FC Kansas City may make a championship run in the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League playoffs — if only because it won’t have to meet Chicago along the way.
Chicago once again augmented FC Kansas City’s late-game woes Sunday. And this one may sting awhile.
Red Stars midfielder Jen Hoy scored a pair of goals — her second coming two minutes into stoppage time — and dealt FC Kansas City a 2-1 loss on Sunday, dropping the Blues to the No. 2 seed heading into the postseason.
FC Kansas City will play host to third-seeded Portland FC in the semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m.
A non-playoff team, Chicago became the only squad to hand FC Kansas City two losses at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium this season. And for the second consecutive meeting, the Red Stars used a late-game comeback to leave FC Kansas City with a bitter feeling.
“It’s something that’s haunted us throughout the season, giving up points in the last seconds,” FC Kansas City captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. “Unfortunately, it’s a feeling that we know. It’s heightened now that we know we were playing for first place.”
It’s not exactly the momentum FC Kansas City had hoped to create heading into its first postseason. After putting together a 10-match unbeaten streak down the stretch, the Blues have now lost two in a row.
Hoy’s late goal simply magnified an uninspiring performance from the Blues, who would have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a draw in either of their final two matches.
“It’s ridiculous that our motivation and our willingness was not there when the season is on the line and first place is on the line,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “I don’t think the players need a motivator to get them going. ... If you’re not motivated enough to play for first place, then you shouldn’t be here.”
To make matters worse, FC Kansas City lost one of its top defenders — right outside back Leigh Ann Robinson — 10 minutes into the match Sunday. Robinson twice injured her knee Sunday, the second tweak sending her to the sidelines for good.
Andonovski said Robinson’s status for Saturday’s semifinal against Portland won’t be known until she undergoes an MRI on Monday. Prior to Sunday, Robinson was one of five players in the league who played every minute this season.
Her replacement against Chicago, Courtney Jones, scored the game’s first goal in the 20th minute.
Hoy, however, responded with her first goal in the 45th minute, completing a two-on-four break that would provide a sign of things to come. She repeated the task for the game-winner in the 92nd minute, rifling a shot toward the near post past a diving Nicole Barnhart.
“I don’t know what happened,” Andonovski said. “Maybe I’ll figure it out in a couple hours, but right now I’m still in shock.”
FC Kansas City, of course, doesn’t have much time to snap out of its funk. The Blues finished 2-1-1 against Portland during the regular season.
“We’ve had some tough games this season that we really had to dig, and I think it’s taken a lot out of us,” Sauerbrunn said. “We just need to find it again. Great teams go into slumps, but you have to find it. The best teams come out of it.”