FC Kansas City’s Becky Sauerbrunn spent the last part of Thursday’s practice kicking a ball back and forth with head coach Vlatko Andonovski, both trying to avoid being the one to let it hit the ground. Sauerbrunn sent a pass over Andonovski’s head, as he joked he was going to pull a hamstring trying to keep up.
The mood Friday was also light, even though it was a temporary goodbye for Sauerbrunn and several others from FCKC. United States National Team members Heather O’Reilly and Sauerbrunn left for their pre-Olympics camp on Friday. Desiree Scott had already left earlier in the week to join Team Canada, and Katie Bowen departed for the New Zealand squad.
But the now 2-4-4 Blues are hardly fretting about what they’ll lose for the entire month of July, as players train for the Olympics. They’ve done this before, last year during the World Cup. Each of the NWSL teams suffers roster setbacks during international tournaments.
With the fourth-place Washington Spirit next on the schedule (6 p.m. Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex), FCKC is focusing on who will step into the vacated roles.
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Sauerbrunn is one of the best centerbacks in the world, and it’s no small feat to replace her. But according to Andonovski, it’s Brittany Taylor who will likely slide into that role.
“I feel comfortable with Britt because of her ability and experience altogether,” he said. “What we see this year from her more so than in previous years is she’s expressed her creativity more than before, and that’s what I want.”
Rookie Alex Arlitt, who has been a discovery in the backfield for FCKC this year, will be counted on even more. Veteran Yael Averbuch, who can play in the midfield or the back line, will be a step-in leader as well.
FCKC is riding a four-game unbeaten streak, and will try to build on it with shuffled personnel. The NWSL will take a break from early- to mid-August for the Olympics, but FCKC will have to do without four of their best for the rest of July.
“If anything, losing the national team players just brings up the intensity in practice,” forward Shea Groom said. “I think we’re well-prepared for it and we’re getting a lot more comfortable. We have a lot of chemistry out there, and we have a lot of confidence in the ones stepping up.”
▪ FCKC signed practice player Molly Menchel to the full roster on Friday. The University of Virginia graduate will be available for Kansas City’s match against Washington on Saturday.