No one predicted that the Blues of FC Kansas would win a third consecutive championship in the 2016 NWSL season. However, not many expected that this would be a “rebuilding year” either.
But at the same time, not many people would have predicted them to be at 2 points, with 0 wins, 4 losses, and 2 ties after six games. They were sorely missing Lauren Holiday to retirement, arguably the world’s best attacking center midfielder. They were missing forwards Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez to pregnancies this season. Also retiring were defenders Amy LePeilbet and Leigh Ann (Robinson) Brown. And on May 13, criminally underrated defensive midfielder Jen Buczkowski retired .By rights, she should have represented the U.S. team in the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics.
Coach Vlatko Andonovski said this on March 15, 2016, which is from the team’s website:
On replacing all the players that did not return from last season
I don’t think we are looking for exact replacements. Actually, I had a chance to meet with HAO when I was in Baltimore last month and we had a great talk but one of the things that she said and kind of stuck with me was “there’s different ways of winning” and it doesn’t necessarily means that we have to win the same way we won last year or the year before. We will have to find a different way to win based on the type of players that we have this season
“HAO”, for those who do not know, is Heather O’Reilly, a former U.S. National Team Player who plays a wing midfielder for the FC Kansas City Blues. However, they struggled offensively by putting Mandy Laddish as the team’s attacking midfielder. Shea Groom became the team’s solo forward in their usual 4-5-1 formation.
Coach Andonovski tried various formations and personnel throughout the season, and this one worked well near the end of the season. Nicole Barnhardt, one of women’s soccer steadiest goalkeepers in history, defended the goal. The backline composed of Kate Bowen, Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Brittany Taylor. The defensive midfielders were “the Destroyer” Desiree Scott and Mandy Laddish at her more natural position. The attacking midfield now had Tiffany McCarty and Francis Silva on the wings, with Heather O’Reilly in the center. Shea Groom remained the team’s solo forward. The team was able to produce more goals with a lineup like this, and still have a steady defense.
FC Kansas City ended the season with 26 points. They won 7 games, lost 8, and had 5 ties. The team scored 18 goals, surrendered 20 goals for a net goal differential of minus 2.
The outlook for 2017 looks promising. They can only get better with the possible returns of Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux. Their defense is already one of the best in the league. And they have a solid coach who has won 2 championships despite being outmatched talent-wise from a superior Seattle Reign team.
Here is some current news about the team (from their website). There are rumors that the team may have an owner from Minnesota that is interested in buying them. But there are also owners from Real Salt Lake, an ownership group in Los Angeles (with Mia Hamm and Magic Johnson among the owners) , as well as FC Barcelona (yes, the Spanish club) and others interested in a future NWSL club. We will track this story throughout the off-season.
FC KANSAS CITY STATEMENT
KANSAS CITY (Oct. 14, 2016) – Earlier today there were reports regarding the status of FC Kansas City. We will not be commenting on any speculation regarding the organization. At this time we are focused on preparations for the 2017 NWSL Draft and another potential championship run. FC Kansas City is proud to be a founding member of the National Women’s Soccer League, and of our two NWSL Championships.
Here are 3 games for anyone who has not watched these:
And finally, my thoughts and prayers to Lauren Holiday and her family. She recently had a baby girl on September 24, and will soon be having surgery to remove a brain tumor.