With the score locked at zero, 45 minutes into a physical first half between FC Kansas City and the Houston Dash on Sunday night, FCKC winger Shea Groom netted her first goal of the season, finishing off a beautiful cross by defender Christina Gibbons to give the Blues a one-goal lead.
Groom, 24, ended the Blues’ scoring drought of 209 minutes that dated back to the first half against the Seattle Reign on June 24.
The lead didn’t last long.
The Dash (4-7-1) upped the intensity and physicality following Groom’s goal, and went on to steal three points from FCKC (3-5-4) in a 2-1 victory at Swope Soccer Village.
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“I am proud of the team … I am proud of their performance … I am proud of their fight and their mentality and attitude,” FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Somtimes there is nothing we can do; sometimes we just have to keep working hard.”
From the first whistle, the Blues and the Dash exchanged tough tackle after tough tackle, but an early decision by head referee Karen Abt went against FCKC. Groom broke free into the box and had a prime opportunity to give FCKC an early lead, but as she shot the ball wide of the net, Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell appeared to take out her legs.
No call was made, and Abt rewarded Houston with a goal kick.
“Anywhere in the world, that’s a penalty kick,” Andonovski said. “Obviously, not in the NWSL, but I am not going to complain. I will just say what I think from what I’ve seen in other games and other leagues.”
Moments later, FCKC forward Lo’eau LaBonta picked up a yellow card in the 36th minute.
“The game started off pretty physical, there were a lot of tough tackles early on,” FCKC captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. “We’ve been talking about mentality, and I thought we showed a lot of fight.”
The physical play in the second half seemed to give the Dash momentum, and forward Rachel Daly tied the game 1-1 in the 55th minute.
“We spoke about the physical play at halftime,” Houston forward and U.S. National Team star Carli Lloyd said. “My message to everybody was that we just needed to fight. … You can talk tactics, formations or technique, but at the end of the day, if you’re not fighting in this league, you’re not getting away with three points.”
With the score tied 1-1 in the 62nd minute, LaBonta picked up her second yellow card, on a controversial decision by Abt, ejecting her from the game. Fewer than 2 minutes after the red card, Houston’s Nichelle Prince scored to give the Dash a 2-1 lead.
“The second call on LaBonta, I don’t even think it was a foul,” Andonovski said. “It’s not a foul. It was a good and strong tackle and she got the ball. That has never been a foul before, but what can we do.”
Playing with 10 players proved to be difficult for a team that has struggled to score all season. FCKC failed to equalize the game, coming close on a shot off the crossbar by forward Brittany Ratcliffe.
In 12 games, the Blues have scored just 11 goals.
“We are going to get a good result out of this game,” Andonovski said. “I thought, even a man down, that we had a good chance to get a draw out of this game. I don’t want to take any credit away from Houston. … Back on the field tomorrow and on to the next one.”
DASH 2, FC KANSAS CITY 1
First half: 1, Kansas City, Groom (Gibbons), 45th+1. Second half: 2, Houston, Daly, 55th. 3, Houston, Prince (Brooks), 64th. Shots: Houston 17, Kansas City 13. Shots on goal: Houston 9, Kansas City 3. Corners: Houston 1, Kansas City 1. Fouls: Houston 12, Kansas City 7. Offsides: Houston 4, Kansas City 2. Yellow cards: Houston 1, Kansas City 3. Red card: Labonta, Kansas City (second yellow card), 62nd. Att: 1,703.