Sauerbrunn, Cheney get Midwest homecoming with FC Kansas City

Dan Lauletta January 13, 2013 23
Lauren Cheney

Lauren Cheney said she is excited to be back in the Midwest and playing for FC Kansas City. (Photo Copyright: Patti Giobetti |

Don’t tell Lauren Cheney or Becky Sauerbrunn that Kansas City is an afterthought among National Women’s Soccer League markets.

“We did have a little bit of a say in where we wanted to go. Kansas City was one of my top three choices,” said Cheney, who is from Indianapolis. “I’m really excited to come back to the Midwest. I don’t think there are any better people in the world than people from the Midwest.”

Sauerbrunn, originally from St Louis, echoed those sentiments during an introductory conference call with FC Kansas City. “Having a team so close to home, for selfish reasons I am very excited. That’s (one of the reasons) it was my top pick.”

Cheney and Sauerbrunn, plus goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, make a solid foundation for the Blues when they launch their club this spring. Also joining the club via allocation were Canadians Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselman, plus Mexicans Renae Cuellar and Marylin Diaz.

“I have to say we were very happy with the allocations,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “The fact we got players that we ranked very high on our list just makes us very satisfied.”

FC Kansas City may not have been allocated mainstream names like Alex Morgan or Abby Wambach, but most observers (including me) have their group ranked just behind the Cascadia clubs. Barnhart is a solid keeper that comes with no baggage and a desire to supplant Hope Solo as the top choice keeper on the national team. Canadians Sesselman and Scott have tons of experience and Cuellar netted a dozen goals as a senior at Oklahoma last fall.

“The way I would describe her is she is a true goal scorer,” Andonovski said of Cuellar. “She has a bright future and is someone we’re very, very excited to have on the team because I think she will help us score some goals.”

Diaz might be the least known among all 55 allocated players. She is only 21 years old and is a recent addition to the national team in Mexico.

“Marilyn Diaz is a defender. She is very strong, a good sized defender,” Andonovski said.

Of Sesselman and Scott, Cheney said they have been impact players during recent U.S.-Canada matches and it will be interesting to “see how we mesh as teammates.”

The gem among the seven may be Barnhart. She was the WPS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2010 with a 0.77 goals against average. Reserved by nature, Barnhart lets her playing do most of her talking.

“Even though she is not the starting goalkeeper on the national team I think a lot of coaches will agree that she is top five in the world,” Andonovski said.

Kansas City was the most surprising of the eight markets when NWSL announced them in November. Questions mounted when Andonovski was named head coach despite limited visibility at the top of the women’s game. The allocation process helped debunk any suggestions that the city or the coach would be a hold up.

“I was excited at the prospect of having new coaches,” Sauerbrunn said. “I’ve played for a lot of coaches that are in NWSL so I’m kind of excited for new blood and a new approach on soccer.”

“I agree with Becky,” Cheney chimed in. “When I had never heard of the coaching staff it was more exciting to me. Kansas City has always been a good area for soccer and well known for soccer so I’m what they can produce.”

Andonovski said the team was aware that Kansas City was getting panned as an undesirable spot for allocated players.

“We were aware of that and we definitely put that in consideration, but there was nothing we could do except hope that some of the players would say they wanted to play for Kansas City. At the end of the day that’s what happened.”

NOTES: FC Kansas City has taken more than 500 refundable deposits for season tickets……The club hopes to have an announcement on a home venue in the next two weeks.

  • Kernel Thai

    What is up with Scott??? Did no one else catch the Olympics? Every article Ive read on allocation lists her as an after thought. She is the best ball contester I saw in the tournament. If I had to pick two defensive players off the allocation lists they would have been Sauerbrunn and Scott and KC got them both. Throw in Sesselman and Barnhart and what a defensive spine. Cheney is versatile so they can place her depending on what other pieces they add. KC did very well.

    • Keith Miller

      I think most Canadians consider Desiree Scott the best player after Christine Sinclair among their allotted players. Maybe because she is a defensive midfielder and doesn’t show up on the score sheet as much people not as familiar with the CAN WNT overlook her a bit?

      • Steglitz49

        Verily. It is the misfortune of defenders to be forgotten except when they make a mistake, score a goal, like Kumagai and Houghton, or make that critical tackle with dire consequences, like Iwashimizu. Let’s hope that LFCKC can lure the last-named to their ranks, if only for a season.

  • I really like FCKC’s allocation – young, intelligent, and ready to make their mark on women’s soccer.

  • Steglitz49

    “I think a lot of coaches will agree that she [Barnhart] is top five in the world,” Andonovski said” — Given that Solo, Fukumoto and Kaihori are held in such regard, It would be interesting to learn who the 4th goalie is.

    • TsovLoj

      Bardsley maybe?

    • Katreus

      Angerer probably. When people mention best GKs in the world, Angerer’s is the name that pops up as a somewhat challeger to Solo.

  • andreas

    barnhard, top five in the world, haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, oh sorry

    unite in what she has to play in the last 2 years, has at lyon, frankfurt, turbine potsdam, wolfsburg, malmö, gothenburg, tyresö, kobe, arsenal or psg.

    what is with, nadine angerer, direree schumann, almuth schult, kathrin längert, alyssa naeher, hedvig lindahl, kristin hammerström, bora björg helgadottir, sarah bouhaddikaren bardsley or miho fukumoto.

    i know americantrainer always exaggerate, but inform them and then speak.

    • Steglitz49

      Your point is well taken (for once) Andreas, old bean. Had the gentleman in question merely said that “she is one of the best in the world”, one could hardly have objected. As it was, he blotted his copy book by being too specific. I doubt if your Merkel or his Obama would have been so cavalier, would they?

      • andreas

        wo hat barnhard in den letzten jahren gespielt.
        klärt mich auf, natio bitte auslassen.

        • Steglitz49

          Bezirk! I have’t the foggiest.

          It has been wryly observed that the NWSL is a giant training camp to produce good teams for Canada, Mexico and USA for 2015 (with spill-over to 2016). We must hope that those ravens of misfortune, who crow their sad gloom and doom, are bested and that the NWSL becomes a thriving, vibrant and international league. Women’s football around the world would be poor without it. Long may it last.

    • Katreus

      Naeher and Bardsley have both been seen in WPS games before. I would not rank either above Barnhart although I’d rank Bardsley above Naeher. Bouhaddi is somewhat streaky and inconsistent as a GK from game to game much like Naeher (although, again, I’d also rate Bouhaddi over Naeher). Lindahl has a problem with coming out of her box too much – at least in international games – and then getting scored on from afar due to the empty goal.

      It’s hard for me to evaluate how good Fukumoto is. For the most part, she seems about as good as Kaihori to me. I have not seen Hammerstrom or Helgadottir play that much.

      Leaving aside those two, of those, I’d say Angerer is probably a cut above and Barnhart is at least on the level of Fukumoto with the next level being Bardsley and Bouhaddi followed by Naeher and Lindahl.

      • Steglitz49

        I contend that soon we will start seeing some lady basketball players switch to soccer goal-keeping. It will take a couple of years, but it is an obvious development.

    • Keith Miller

      You put Hedvig Lindahl on that list? She has made some costly atrocious mistakes the last few years. She has allowed a lot of long goals because she comes out too far off her line. And this has happened on many occasions. At the Olympics. At the Algarve Cup. The Volvo Winners Cup. She is the worst starting keeper among the top European teams in my opinion. She wouldn’t be anywhere near the top 10 in the world let alone the top 5. She might be the most gaffe prone keeper at that level I’ve seen in the women’s game recently. I would be more sympathetic to your view had you not included her. But you did and it makes me question some of the other keepers on that list than I’m not as familiar with because including LIndahl there is just … wow.

      • Steglitz49

        It is rare to have goalkeepers like Banks and Schmeichel who are so far above the rest that their place in the annals of football are assured forevermore. USA does. Japan has two, lucky ladies!

        Dennerby has, righly, been criticized for keeping faith with Lindahl in favor of Hammarström, in spite of Hammarström playing for the teams winning the Swedish cup in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Nevertheless, it is equally easy to forget that Sweden only lost to Japan in the WC-11, where Sweden defeated USA. In the Olympics, with injured attacking players, Sweden drew with Japan (heaven only knows how). Would Sweden have reached the Olympic SF with a different goalie? We cannot tell? And, if they had, would they have beaten Japan? Another good question.

        In short, I think that the gentleman was making a point that there is a world outside of the NWSL. At the same time, I contend that properly managed the NWSL could become the league for lady footballers. Yeehaw!

        • Keith Miller

          Sweden’s success in my opinion was in spite of Lindahl certainly not because of her. Look at Kawasumi’s lofted goal in the Semi at the WWC! Quintessential Lindahl. Reckless aggression coming off her line for a challenge and she pays (again!). She was sloppy on the other two goals conceded in that match as well. On another the ball came right to her hands and she couldn’t corral it. It bounced off her HANDS and straight to Sawa. I feel a bit bad bashing a player but it’s really the coach I have to question. I really hope Pia doesn’t make the same misjudgments on the keeper situation for Sweden.

          • Steglitz49

            Japan winning the WC-11 seems forordained. That victory also adds to romance and mystique of ladies’ football, which is critical for the development of the game. The fact that Japan reached the Olympic final after a dodgy season shows how focussed they are when the chips are down. We will probably never see such a class side for a long time.

            I think one of Andreas’s points was (though he can type himself) that we must not be too insular and inward-looking with the NWSL. Verily, we already are because I freely admit that I do not know nearly enough about the Mexican ladies. Equalizer, please you can help us by running a series on the Mexican players.

            Another point Andreas seems to be making, and others also have, is that unlike the previous pro-leagues, the NWSL does not look like having any foreign star players. It is too early to tell yet, of course, but the LA Sol had Miyama, Abilly, Marta and Frisk, and the otjer clubs had other top players. In short, if the wealthy men’s clubs in Europe continue to increase the support for their ladies’ sides then rapidly women’s soccer will look like the men’s. This would not be good for the game world-wide either.

            The NWSL has to start getting space in mainstream media. This will be hard but it is essential. A strong PR-plan once they start playing is a must.

          • Keith Miller

            I could likewise say that many international observers don’t know anything about American keepers beyond Hope Solo. Barnhart was the best keeper in the WPS. That league was a good league I’m sure you would agree? It had many great stars and keepers including Solo. I think Andreas’s point is valid in the abstract although I think it could have been better made. Honestly his list of keepers looks a bit flippant. I’m familiar with several of the keepers he listed and I’m very comfortable putting Barnhart on par or above most of those keepers that he mentioned. And well above Lindahl. Also I didn’t intend to take anything away from Japan, the US has also benefited from her lapses between the pipes in the last few years.

          • Steglitz49

            Football is an odd game. Some men have taken the professional shilling and gone where the money was. Many of those are justly counted among the truly greats. Yet, others, like Walter and Seeler, never strayed from their beloved teams. What shall we make of that?

            The story has been told of how Milan landed Nordahl — “Il Cannoniere” — and through him Gren and Liedholm, nicknamed “Il Professore” and “Il Barone”, creating the fabled Grenoli line. Milan really wanted to sign someone else, who is now totally forgotten except by football nerds. Juventus also wanted that chap, and when he changed trains somewhere in Switzerland, the Juventus’ agent was there and offered him more, so the wretch signed for Juventus and stepped on the train on the other side of the platform.

            Milan, needless to type, were a bit annoyed but turned to their other choice, Nordahl. Nordahl came, passed the test and was signed — but put his hand up. He explained that Milan really needed to sign his compatriots, Gren and Liedholm, because without them he was but a clanging cymbal. Milan did and history was made.

            In 1970 in Guadalajara, Gordon Banks was ill. England’s second goalie played. The rest is history, including Schoen’s brilliant substitution and the English’s assinnine one.

            It is the tragedy of great goalies that sometimes there is a better one around. Solo was cleared for London. Kaihori is world champion; Fukumoto has an Olympic silver. In soccer, since 1950, world champion is what counts.

          • Keith Miller

            Well that was fun to read. All great points. However I think some measure of latitude should be given to Barnhart with respect to her WPS performances and that she’s done more than her role as Hope’s dutiful backup might suggest to some. I mean, Andreas saw fit to highlight four German keepers. FOUR!

  • andreas

    oh sorry, when i have a enumeration but completely forgot the number one in the world, hope solo.and i say this as a german

  • Sauerbrunn is someone any team would love to build a defense around. She may not have gotten a lot of playing time on the NT yet, but not for lack of peers and fans wanting her out there. Cheney suffered a bit from having her role switched around the last few years on the NT level, but the club level I’m sure they’ll find where she best fits and let her stay there and grow. Another great asset. Barnhart is a very solid GK. IMO in the top three available if she stays healthy. Add in the great picks from Canada (sorry, I’m not that familiar with the Mexican players yet) and they look both talented and relatively young. Great combo.

  • StarCityFan

    I’m disappointed not to have Becky back in DC, but I wish her all the best in Kansas City. I’m sure she’ll be fantastic.