Merritt Mathias’ goal in the 71st minute could have sparked a 20-plus-minute psychological cool down Sunday on a seemingly inevitable FC Kansas City victory.
The first goal of the season for Mathias gave the Blues a 2-0 lead over the second-place Portland Thorns.
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But FC Kansas City didn’t relax. It had learned its lesson five days earlier, when FCKC took the same lead in the 75th minute at league-leading Sky Blue FC but surrendered two goals after the 85th minute in that game — one in extra time — and returned home with a draw.
On Sunday, there was no repeat against Portland as FC Kansas City toppled the Thorns 2-0 in front of 4,774 at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.
And the Blues, 7-4-2, got that first victory over a team currently in the top four of the National Women’s Soccer League standings — even if it was a few days later than initially expected.
“We were upset with that outcome (Wednesday),” Mathias said. “Today, when we were out there, every person said we’re not going down like last game.”
FC Kansas City’s back line and defensive midfielders pressured the Thorns and limited the chances in the penalty area for US national team star Alex Morgan and Canada’s all-time leading scorer Christine Sinclair. And those chances were usually easily handled by goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who had five saves and recorded her sixth shutout.
“We worked a lot on containing their attacks and attacking quick as soon as we win the ball,” FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski said.
That FCKC scored early helped.
Lauren Cheney, a US national team regular, scored her league-best ninth goal in the 10th minute on a strike from 28 yards out.
It was Cheney’s fourth goal in the last three games, and her third in three games against Portland.