Between honoring a legend by retiring her jersey and celebrating the FIFA Women’s World Cup champions with their trophy on hand, FC Kansas City held nothing back for the final regular season home game of their reign as National Women’s Soccer League champions.
The only thing missing was a victory, but FC Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with the Washington Spirit in front of 2,492 fans at Swope Soccer Village kept them in second place with one game left to play in the regular season. The top four teams will then advance to the NWSL playoffs.
The evening started with a special on-field ceremony for midfielder Lauren Holiday, who has announced that she is retiring at the end of the season. Her parents and husband, Jrue, point guard of the New Orleans Pelicans, joined her on the field for the festivities. The team gave her a framed jersey and revealed a new No. 12 flag that will fly in the northwest corner of the field.
“What we did for Lauren was the least we could do for her,” Blues coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “What a great individual and also great player. It was an honor to coach her these three years, and I am honored to be her friend as well as her coach.”
Teammate Amy Rodriguez, who won the World Cup with Holiday and two Olympic gold medals, took the microphone at one point and shed a few tears before suggesting that the Spirit let them win to honor her close friend.
Although the Spirit did not comply, the draw gave the Blues the one point they needed to keep their lead in the standings. FC Kansas City improved to 8-6-4, and Washington improved to 8-5-5. Both teams are tied with second-place Chicago with 29 points. Seattle is in first with 39 and a 12-3-3 record.
If the Blues can jump up to second place, they would secure home-field advantage in the playoffs for the second straight season. The final will be played in Portland, Ore., regardless of the participants.
The scoreless draw was a dramatic change from the Blues’ last three games, in which the team outscored opponents 10-0. They were held to just two shots in the first half and 12 in the match.
The defense extended its shutout streak to 376 minutes and earned its 10th shutout despite facing Crystal Dunn, who leads the league with 13 goals in 18 games. It was the league-leading eighth clean sheet in 16 games for goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
Liberty native Shea Groom made her return to play in the 88th minute after missing six games with a second metatarsal fracture in her right foot. She is tied for the team lead with four goals across 13 games in her rookie campaign.
As a final part of the festivities, Holiday was able to present a $10,000 check to CDH Babies from the FC Kansas City ownership. The charity helps children like Holiday, who are born with congenital heart disorders.
The Blues will play their final regular season game against Sky Blue FC on Sept. 2 at Yurcak Field in New Jersey.