Three of FC Kansas City’s four Olympians — Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather O’Reilly (U.S.) and Katie Bowen (New Zealand) — all returned to practice this week after national team duty.
But as those players trickled back, one other important piece made a temporary exit.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski traveled back home to Macedonia after the death of his father last week. He will miss Sunday’s game against Boston (5 p.m. at Swope Soccer Village), the first match FCKC has played since a near month-long break for the Olympics.
FCKC general manager Huw Williams has been filling in at practice this week, and will serve as the team’s head coach Sunday as well. Williams previously served as an assistant coach with the club under Andonovski, so he’s no stranger to the club’s system or schedule.
“We’ve gone with the same formula in practice, the same ethos as a team,” Williams said. “The assistant coaches have done a great job really taking charge of practices. My job is just to be there supporting, and to keep things as normal as possible.”
“Normal,” of course, is subjective: By any measure, this season is an abnormal one for FCKC. The team has won two straight National Women’s Soccer League championships but finds itself this season close to missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
With five games remaining in the regular season, and nine points out of the final playoffs spot, FCKC’s chances are dire, but not impossible.
After a rough July, the team’s schedule gets slightly easier the rest of the way. And with most Olympians already back with the team (Desiree Scott, who won a bronze medal with Canada, will return later this week), the Blues are gearing up for one final push at the postseason.
“It’s an unbelievable mentality that we have,” Williams said. “If you looked at the mind-set in practices, you’d never know we’ve been struggling a little bit. The mind-set is there’s no quit; there’s no ‘give up.’ The girls are ready to battle.”