After 75 hard-fought minutes, an unlikely duo teamed up to help keep FC Kansas City’s five-game winning streak alive.
Merritt Mathias connected with fellow midfielder Jen Buczkowski for the only goal in the Blues’ 1-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday night at UMKC’s Durwood Stadium. It was the first goal of the season for Buczkowski and the first assist for Mathias.
“Mathias finds herself in that situation pretty often, and I am glad she played that beautiful ball to Bucz,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Bucz in the beginning of the season had several opportunities but just didn’t get quite there. When we needed her the most though, she was there and that is just who she is.”
With the victory, FC Kansas City is now undefeated in seven consecutive games, having outscored opponents 11-4 and 8-1 in the five victories. It was the second head-to-head victory for the Blues, who also opened some distance in the National Women’s Soccer League standings, where they hold second place with 27 points. The Red Stars remained in third place with 20 points.
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“It shows in the standings, which is great for us. But from a psychological standpoint, it is huge for us because that confidence helps our players play better soccer,” Andonovski said. “It’s not just that we score goals and create opportunities but the way we are scoring goals. The goal we scored was one of the nicest scored around the league, and we are scoring goals like that over and over.”
While FC Kansas City controlled the ball for the majority of the first half, Chicago goal keeper Karina LeBlanc held FCKC scoreless with four saves. FC Kansas City countered by holding the Red Stars to just one shot before the 45th minute, and keeper Nicole Barnhart notched a pair of saves to enter halftime.
LeBlanc started the second half with another save and the defense held FC Kansas City to just one more shot before Mathias found Buczkowski alone on the left side.
“It was a great buildup and the cross from Merritt was perfect,” Buczkowski said. “I found the extra energy to get the back post and I was luckily free so I just kind of slid and tapped it in.”
The Blues finished the match with 12 shots while holding the Red Stars to eight for their fourth shutout in the last five games. Barnhart, who was the 2013 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, notched her league-leading sixth shutout in the victory with three saves. LeBlanc finished with seven saves.
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