How does someone defend against genius?
That’s a problem FC Kansas City will have to solve when it takes on Seattle Reign FC at 6 p.m. Saturday at Swope Soccer Village.
To beat Seattle and move their unbeaten streak to four games, the Blues must contain one of the best players in the world in Kim Little.
Little, the 2016 BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year and 2015’s second-leading goal-scorer in the National Women’s Soccer League, is difficult to control. She spins, contorts, and can seemingly move the ball wherever she wants.
“Even if she’s got three people on her, she can find her way out of it because she just has an innate awareness of where the space is and how to get into it,” FCKC center back Becky Sauerbrunn said. “I think she takes a lot of (mental) pictures before she gets the ball, so she just kind of knows where everything is.”
It’s not the first time FCKC will be tasked with stopping Little’s magic tricks. It did so in two NWSL championship games against Seattle, both won by Kansas City. The teams also met earlier this season, when Little scored the only goal in a 1-0 Seattle victory.
In that game, she came down with a bouncing ball in the box, barely slipped it over to an open space, and sliced the ball into the net through the tiniest of windows.
“She’s so unpredictable and she does things sometimes that you just wonder how she finds herself in some of the situations,” FCKC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Last game, I feel like we defended well for the most part. She got the ball once inside the box and had some individual brilliance and it changed the game.”
To keep Little off the scoreboard, Sauerbrunn said the team has to constantly stay hyperaware of her location. FCKC will have to remain organized as a defense and stay ready to react to the unpredictable to minimize Little’s damage.
“They do a great job in Seattle of giving her that freedom to go wherever the game takes her, so if she feels like she wants to be more in the build-up, she’ll move back in the midfield,” Sauerbrunn said. “If she feels the team needs a goal, she’ll move more up top. She’s a player that you build a team around and let her go where she goes, and you react off that.”