After emerging from her team’s locker room a week ago, Seattle coach Laura Harvey settled in for a long postgame speech. The speculation was that Harvey wouldn’t have many positive things to say, given her team had just lost a convincing 2-0 match to FC Kansas City at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.
But the longer she spoke, the more it became evident there was little or no disappointment in Harvey’s voice.
In fact, after a prolonged monologue, she simply shrugged her shoulders before providing a concluding point.
“Look, I personally think Kansas City is the best team in the league,” she said. “The way they move the ball, the players they’ve got. They’ve got game-changers.”
It’s early. Of course it’s early. FC Kansas City has played only two games of its 26-game slate.
But the Blues, 1-0-1, have made an impression on many already — including U.S. women’s national team coach Tom Sermanni, who has attended both FC Kansas City games at SM North. The Blues already have four players on the national team — goalie Nicole Barnhart, midfielders Lauren Cheney and Kristie Mewis and defender Becky Sauerbrunn — but Sermanni suggested an in interview with The Star during last week’s game he may be looking at another in Leigh Ann Robinson.
All the recognition is great, FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski says, but if the team is to be considered one of the best the newly-formed National Women’s Soccer League has to offer, it must prove something else.
“If you want to be a team that plays into the playoffs and do well, you have to win on the road,” Andonovski said. “We’re very aware of that.”
The team’s first chance comes at 10 tonight in Seattle — against the same team the Blues bested 2-0 on Saturday night.
The match should provide a clearer indicator of the proper expectations for FC Kansas City, which will see plenty of time on the road over the next six weeks. Five of the team’s next seven games are away from home.
“I think we’re excited to prove we can play on the road,” Robinson said. “You have to be wary about how your legs feel when you travel, but I think traveling can be a team bonding experience. We’re excited about that.”
A rematch of a game that took place only seven days ago presents some intriguing coaching decisions. In the victory last week, Andonovski showcased an offensive-minded strategy against Seattle in which the Blues pushed their outside defenders into the attacking end of the field.
The move led to a more open midfield, and Cheney played an active role throughout the game. She assisted on both goals.
Harvey said Seattle will make adjustments to better limit Cheney’s touches in the open field. In return, FC Kansas City plans to counter with its own adjustments, though Andonovski said the team played with a mind-set he would like to see stick around for the foreseeable future.
“It will depend on what team we’re going to play, but we’ll definitely maintain an attacking formation,” Andonovski said. “We’re going to see a lot of offense from this team.”