The championship formula has borne little variance from its inception. For its inaugural three seasons in the National Women’s Soccer League, FC Kansas City relied on possession-oriented soccer, a style spurred by a dependable four-player back line.
The opening match of year four offered the first glimpse of change.
In a loss to Western New York last Saturday, FC Kansas City opened the game with only a three-player back line — an alteration that coach Vlatko Andonovski said was the result of offseason roster turnover.
“We have to figure out all the strengths and weaknesses of all the new players and where they’re going to fit into our style,” Andonovski said. “We may change the system. We may change the formation. But one thing that we will not change is the philosophy. We have to make sure the players still understand the philosophy.”
The new formation shifted even more responsibility onto captain Becky Sauerbrunn, who lined up in the middle of the three-player back line.
It didn’t last more than a half. After FC Kansas City struggled to generate offense in the first 45 minutes in last Saturday’s 1-0 loss, the Blues made some additional second-half tweaks.
“I don’t think I set up the tactics well enough to cover the defensive side enough (in the first match),” Andonovski said. “After the adjustments in the second half, I felt like we started to get into a rhythm.”
The search for consistency may not be a quick fix with FC Kansas City working to replace a pair of U.S. women’s national-team players this season — midfielder Lauren Holiday and forward Amy Rodriguez. Those departures have the coaching staff searching for the right mix in the starting lineup, and in turn it will be an ongoing process to figure out the best formation for the personnel on the field.
FC Kansas City, 0-1-0, will play host to Portland Thorns FC at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. After they began the season at Children’s Mercy Park, the Blues will return to their usual home of Swope Soccer Village.
“We’re trying some things tactically,” Sauerbrunn said after the opener. “We saw glimpses of some really good soccer. Now we just have to make it more consistent.”
Portland Thorns at FC Kansas City
When/where: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Swope Soccer Village
Webcast: NWSL YouTube channel