FC Kansas City

FC Kansas City wins first match in National Women’s Soccer League

Over the past seven weeks, FC Kansas City midfielder Sinead Farrelly has earned a nickname among her new teammates and coaches. They call her The Ghost, noting her ability to sneak into spots on the field unseen.

The Ghost appeared at the perfect time Friday night.

Farrelly slipped toward the back post and headed in a corner kick lob from Lauren Cheney in the 21st minute, lifting FC Kansas City to its first victory in franchise history — a 2-0 win against Seattle at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium. The Blues improved to 1-0-1 and left Seattle searching for its first win in the newly-formed National Women’s Soccer League after three tries.

“I was at the right place at the right time,” Farrelly said. “I just tapped it in. I actually didn’t even know it went in, but I started celebrating.”

Playing in a steady rain that 4,064 fans sat through at SM North, Cheney said she was trying to take advantage of the wet, soggy turf and score off the corner kick. Instead, her cross made for a perfect pass for Farrelly.

An accident well-received. And not the only one from Cheney. The most active player on the field for the Blues, Cheney also assisted on Renae Cuellar’s goal in the 71st minute. Cheney dealt a long pass to Cuellar, who outraced Seattle’s defense and beat keeper Michelle Betos for her second goal of the young season. Cuellar is the only player in the NWSL with two goals.

“I’m going to be honest,” Cheney said with a wry smile. “I was just trying to clear the ball.”

Oh, well. It made for the perfect capper to a second half mostly controlled by FC Kansas City, whose improved cohesiveness was the benefactor of 12 consecutive days of training. The Blues pushed numbers up for most of the night and made one switch in their starting lineup — Farrelly started in place of Casey Loyd — in search of a more aggressive attack.

The change paid off. FC Kansas City outshot Seattle 12-9.

“Any win feels good, but the first one feels very good,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “We’re going to enjoy it.”

Trying for an early equalizer, Seattle, 0-2-1, utilized midfielder Jessica Fishlock, its most effective player Friday. Six minutes after FC Kansas City opened the scoring, Fishlock distributed a perfectly-placed crossing pass to Keelin Winters, and Winters flicked a shot toward the goal, but Blues keeper Nicole Barnhart made a sliding stop. Barnhart made six saves in the game.

The Blues nearly gave themselves a two-goal cushion in the 50th minute. Cheney bent a free kick toward the near side, prompting a gorgeous save from Seattle Michelle Betos. Becky Sauerbrunn ripped the rebound off the crossbar.

“I personally think Kansas City is the best team in the league,” Seattle coach Laura Harvey said. “Lauren Cheney is a great player, and she proved that tonight.”

The Reign continue to play as the league’s most shorthanded team. None of its three United States national team players — Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodriguez — have played a game. Solo is out with an injury, Rapinoe remains in France with Olympique Lyonnais and Rodriguez announced a month after the allocations that she is pregnant and will miss the entire season.

None of the three are expected to play May 4, when the same two teams meet in Seattle. FC Kansas City will be making its first road trip of the season.