FC Kansas City is finally back in town this week after spending its last two games on the road.
Although the confines FCKC will play in are friendly for the first time since April 16, the matchup won’t be. The Blues (1-2-0) will face the Orlando Pride (0-2-1) and five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta at 5 p.m Sunday.
“They’ve got a great team,” said FCKC center back Becky Sauerbrunn. “It’ll be great to play against teammates that I have on the national team but also Marta. She’s one of the best players in the world, so anytime you get to kind of like test yourself against someone like that is really exciting.”
The last time the Blues played at Swope Soccer Village, Sydney Leroux found the back of the net on her first touch in the 7th minute and Amy Rodriguez scored early in the second half to guide FCKC to a season-opening 2-0 victory against the Boston Breakers.
Things are a little different now.
Rodriguez is out for the season because of an anterior cruciate ligament injury. She intends to rehab her right knee and return to FCKC next year.
But after spending most of the preseason in camp with the Blues for the first time since the 2015 championship season, FCKC had gotten used to including Rodriguez in the system. Coach Vlatko Andonovski had to make adjustments, and FCKC couldn’t quite keep up with them in the next game against Chicago.
Then Shea Groom sat out the third game of the season because of a rib injury. Having an extra forward around in last week’s game against Sky Blue FC might have helped alleviate the pressure on Leroux, who played the full 90 minutes for the first time since 2015.
Groom is expected to return to the lineup Sunday after practicing with the team all week, which is a good sign for an offense that hasn’t scored a goal since Rodriguez’s in the 48th minute of the season opener. At least Orlando, which enters Sunday on an 11-game winless streak, has allowed six goals while only scoring two through the first three games.
One thing that hasn’t changed since the last home game is FCKC’s staunch defense. With Sauerbrunn, Yael Averbuch, Desiree Scott and Christina Gibbons on the backline and Nicole Barnhart in the box, opponents have only attempted 12 shots on goal this season. Only twice has a ball found its way past Barnhart for a goal.
“Orlando is stacked,” Andonovski said. “They’ve got very good individuals and players all over the field. Needless to say, Marta is incredible. She is a game-changer. She can make things happen from nothing. … We have to be on our toes throughout the whole game.”
Tickets for Sunday’s game can be purchased at fckansascity.com or on-site. The game will be available to stream online at go90.com and on the go90 app.
If you missed The Star’s live chat with Sauerbrunn and Averbuch on Friday, check out the video below.