A week of rest, three weeks without game day pressure and a chance at some rejuvenation can go a long way for a team still hoping to make a playoff run.
FC Kansas City, at 4-6-4 and eighth in the National Women’s Soccer League standings, will play its final pre-Olympics match at 7 p.m. Saturday in Chicago.
Following Saturday’s game against the Red Stars, FCKC won’t play until Aug. 28. The NWSL will take a league-wide break for most of August as many of its top players will be participating in the Olympics.
“We’ll have a week off where players do absolutely nothing,” FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “When they come back it’ll be a little relaxed scheduled until the middle of the month when we get back to normal. It’s a chance for them to recharge their batteries and really come back fresh.”
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A fresh start might be just what FCKC needs after a roller-coaster season. The Blues didn’t get a win until their seventh match, then followed that up with a four-game unbeaten streak, including a 2-1 win against top-ranked Portland.
Sitting six points back from a playoff spot, FCKC still has a chance at a crunch-time run. Last year, the team was 4-6-3 through July, then charged through the rest of the regular season on an eight-game unbeaten streak and won its second league championship.
According to Andonovski, the Olympic break will be a chance to work on sharpening up details they’ve struggled with this season, such as entries into the box and defending against restarts. It will also serve as a chance to get healthy — Alex Arlitt, for example, has a stress fracture in her foot and could make her return Aug. 28 against Boston.
But before any of that, a win against fifth-ranked Chicago would be a much-needed momentum boost for FCKC, especially knowing that its Olympic players will be rejoining the team. Desiree Scott (Canada), Katie Bowen (New Zealand), and Becky Sauerbrunn and Heather O’Reilly (U.S.) will all return for FCKC’s final five-match stretch through September.
“It’s always motivation when you know you’re getting players back like the ones we’re missing,” Andonovski said. “Knowing that those four are coming back is a great feeling. … If we can get this win this weekend even before they come back, it will be a huge boost for us.”