FC Kansas City had the perfect setup for its 2015 season opener Sunday.
A budding partnership with Sporting Kansas City had the Blues playing at Sporting Park, they had fans who camped out overnight for the game, and National Women’s Soccer League commissioner Jeff Plush was on site to watch them receive their championship rings.
The only thing that did not go their way was the result.
FC Kansas City allowed one goal in the 29th minute and was unable to find an equalizer. The Blues fell 1-0 to Sky Blue FC.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to with the 1-0 loss, but coming together and playing for this team feels so good,” forward Amy Rodriguez said. “I hope the fans had a great time because we did on the field.”
The announced attendance was 8,489, which is far higher than the estimated capacity at Swope Soccer Village. Team representatives are expecting between 4,000 and 4,500 seats there.
“It’s a great atmosphere with a great crowd,” Plush said. “There are only positive steps being made here locally with the defending champs.”
Although they eschewed the excuse, FC Kansas City was playing with the challenge of limited time with their nationa- team players like Rodriguez. She, Lauren Holiday, Becky Sauerbrunn and Heather O’Reilly missed the entire preseason and made it to three practices before Sunday’s season opener. They will play only two more games before leaving again for camp.
“In a World Cup year a lot of our players — myself included — were gone a lot, and that does hinder our chemistry with the rest of our team,” Rodriguez said. “We want to play a big role, a dynamic role on this team, but it is hard to do that when we’re away so much. Going forward we are going to try to do what we can and hopefully win some games.”
Other than the one goal, the other stats all went in FC Kansas City’s favor.
The Blues had 15 shots compared with just five for Sky Blue FC and won the battle for corner kicks 6-2. Sky Blue goa keeper Brittany Cameron finished with five saves in six shots on goal. FC Kansas City’s Nicole Barnhart finished with two saves.
“It’s not just that we possessed the ball, but we possessed it with purpose, with ideas and created opportunities, we just didn’t score goals,” FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski said.
“Of course I am not happy with the loss, and it will be hard for me to accept, but it is what it is, and the most important thing is that we played well as a unit. The results will come.”
FC Kansas City took the first six shots before Sky Blue finally broke through the back line. Nadia Nadim scored the game’s lone goal on an angled shot, which she rocketed from the right side of the goal. Meg Morris was credited with the assist.
The Blues’ best chance came in the 78th minute when Holiday’s shot escaped the hands of Brittany Cameron, but it stopped right before the goal line. Cameron cleared the ball to a disappointed sigh from the FC Kansas City faithful.
One minute later, she connected with Amy Rodriguez, who went one-on-one before crashing into Cameron.
FC Kansas City received a free kick when Kelley O’Hara took Heather O’Reilly down outside the box, but Yael Averbuch’s shot soared over the goal and into the stands.
“Unfortunately, this is a rough start to the season, but it happened last year and we still won the championship,” Sauerbrunn said. “Our heads aren’t down right now.”
FC Kansas City will travel to take on the Washington Spirit at 6 p.m. Saturday before breaking in Swope Soccer Village on April 23.