After a light training session Saturday morning, FC Kansas City midfielder Lauren Cheney approached coach Vlatko Andonovski with a bit of apprehension. Citing tired legs and a worn-out body, Cheney voiced concern over how many minutes she could provide Sunday.
“I’ll tell you what — if you score two goals for me, I’ll get you out of there early,” Andonovski proposed.
Well, OK then.
In her return from intentional duty, Cheney held up her end of the bargain, tallying both goals in a 2-0 win against visiting Washington on Sunday. FC Kansas City, 6-4-1, earned its first home win since May 18 in front of 3,057 fans at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.
“Today was definitely a grind — I was pretty tired,” Cheney said. “We came to play though. The first half, we dominated and put them on their heels.”
Cheney led the charge. She struck first in the 18th minute. After the Blues’ scoring chance seemingly broke down, she turned and fired a shot from 25 yards away that clipped the underside of the crossbar and went into the back of the net. Jen Buczkowski was awarded the assist.
Washington goalie Ashlyn Harris did well to keep the margin at only one goal in the first half — and received some help from defender Robyn Gayle, who nicked a would-be goal from Melissa Henderson off the line.
Cheney found an opening again after halftime. Merritt Mathias popped a pass over Harris’ head, and the ball connected with a wide-open Cheney at the back post. Cheney tapped it in for her team-best sixth goal of the season in the 65th minute.
Cheney set up again from only 9 yards away for a potential hat trick, but Harris made a sprawling save, one of eight she made in the game. After the match, Cheney delivered a message to Harris.
“I was telling her that she was ridiculous and she was so good (Sunday),” Cheney said. “I literally told her that. I was mad that she robbed two of my goals.”
Andonovski had a couple of surprises in his starting lineup Sunday, most notably electing to start Henderson at striker in place of Renae Cuellar, who entered the game as the Blues’ leading scorer with five goals this season. He also moved midfielder Kristie Mewis to left back (where she plays for the United States national team), which effectively removed Mathias from the starting lineup for the first time this season.
Cuellar and Mathias both saw time in the second half and helped create the second goal.
The lineup was aided by the return of six U.S. and Canada national-team players following a two-game absence.
“I’m very happy with the performance of every single player — the ones who started and the ones who got in,” Andonovski said. “It’s obvious that we missed the national-team players. I’m happy to have them back.”
The Blues’ defense reaped the rewards of having Lauren Sesselmann, Becky Sauerbrunn and Mewis back in the lineup, a trio that helped effectively silence the Washington scoring threats.
It was a relatively quiet day for FCKC keeper Nicole Barnhart. Tiffany McCarty had the only real threat for Washington in the 72nd minute — she beat Barnhart with a move on the box but sent the ensuing shot off the right post.