It took none of the usual persistence from FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski to convince his players to watch game film this week. Before he said anything, many of the Blues players gathered together on their own to study the Chicago Red Stars’ previous match.
The looming postseason has that effect.
Having already clinched a spot in the four-team playoffs, FC Kansas City will wrap up its regular-season schedule with a home match against Chicago at 3:10 p.m. today at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium. The Blues are looking to rebound from a 1-0 loss in Boston last weekend, a defeat that snapped a 10-match unbeaten streak.
“You can tell how important it us to the girls that we don’t want to finish the season with two losses,” Andonovski said. “It’s important for us to go into the playoffs with a winning mentality and get back to the way were playing the last 10 games.”
FC Kansas City is guaranteed to be host to the semifinal round of the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League playoffs on Aug. 24. Who it will play, however, remains unclear.
The No. 1 seed — and home field advantage throughout the playoffs — is still up for grabs. Western New York defeated Boston on Saturday night and tied the Blues atop the NWSL standings. Both teams have 38 points, but Western New York holds the tie breaker. That means FC Kansas City needs to earn at least a draw today to clinch the top spot.
The importance of home field advantage — at least for FC Kansas City — is supported by the numbers. The importance of home-field advantage is supported by the numbers. The Blues haven’t lost at home since June 16 and are 4-0-1 in their last five matches at SM North District Stadium.
“I think any team will tell you they want to play at home,” center back Lauren Sesselmann said. “We’ve worked so hard this season for home-field advantage. It gives you energy when you hear your fans behind you, so to be able to play in front of all your fans is a huge advantage.”
As for advantages, taking some momentum into the postseason wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Chicago isn’t one of the four teams slotted for next week’s semifinals — Western New York, Portland FC and Sky Blue FC (New Jersey) have all nailed down spots — but it has given FC Kansas City fits at times this season.
The Red Stars were the last team to beat the Blues at SM North District Stadium on June 16. And in the two teams’ previous meeting on July 14, FC Kansas City allowed a two-goal lead to slip away in the final 5 minutes.
“Chicago is actually one of the most persistent and hard-working teams in the league, a typical Midwest team,” Andonovski said. “They match up well against us, and I think it’s going to be a good test in front of us, which is what we need. But the goal we’re trying to achieve is a lot bigger, so I hope our determination will prevail.”