Defending champs FCKC score big road win in Boston

Ray Curren July 9, 2015 21

BOSTON — Defending NWSL champion FC Kansas City appears to fully recovered from whatever was ailing it for the last couple of months. After scoring just nine goals in its first 10 matches (and winning just three), the Blues scored three times on Thursday for the second consecutive match and made it two wins in a row. Shea Groom’s 78th-minute goal the winner in a big 3-2 road victory over Boston before 2,525 at Soldiers Field Stadium in the league’s first game following the Women’s World Cup.

FC Kansas City (5-5-2) – while it has played the most games in the league (12) – now moves into third, ahead of the Washington Spirit on goal differential, and only one point behind league leaders Chicago Red Stars and Seattle Reign FC. And with next week’s game moved, the national team cavalry in the form of Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez, Heather O’Reilly and Becky Sauerbrunn should all be available by the time they take the field again.

Thursday brought an extremely open and entertaining contest, in stark contrast to Kansas City’s last trip to Boston on May 30, a 1-0 Breakers win which the hosts dominated on the stat sheet. It took only 27 seconds for Kansas City to score on Thursday, with Frances Silva finding Groom, whose cross eluded Boston goalkeeper Jami Kranich, allowing Erika Tymrak – the 2013 NWSL Rookie of the Year – to score her first goal of 2015 from short range.

“We were almost forced to play a little bit more open because of how they came after us,” Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Obviously we came out with two forwards (Groom and Caroline Kastor, making her first professional start), so we kind of made it happen like that, too. We’re known as a very solid defensive team, we have more shutouts than any other team in the league, so it is what it is, if it’s an open game, we’re going to compete and we’re not going to back off.”

[MORE: Fell in love with the U.S. at the World Cup? Give NWSL a try]

Photo Copyright Clark Linehan for The Equalizer

Photo Copyright Clark Linehan for The Equalizer

Boston (3-6-2) scored just two minutes later (at the 2:05 mark to be exact) when Kansas City goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland kept out a Julie King header off a corner, but Morgan Marlborough was able to bundle it home. The Breakers continued to put the pressure on in the first 20 minutes, with Rowland coming up big with a kick save to deny Mollie Pathman from 12 yards out in the 13th minute. Boston out-shot Kansas City 18-11 and forced six saves out of Rowland in the first half, most coming in that opening flurry.

But the Blues got their bearings, and it was the same Silva-Groom-Tymrak combination that put them in front just before halftime, Groom doing a highwire act to stay in bounds on the endline and finally cutting it back to Tymrak from eight yards out for her first-half brace.

Kansas City played a 4-4-2 with Tymrak out wide left and not in the center as she has been for much of this season, especially since Holiday went to national team duty. The move seemed to help Tymrak.

“I’ll play wherever coach wants me to play, but I love playing out wide,” Tymrak said. “I feel like I have a lot more space, but like I said, it’s Vlatko’s world and I’m just living in it.”

In the 60th minute, a rare mistake from Leigh Ann Robinson on a clearance went directly to the left foot of Kristie Mewis from 15 yards out, and that was the worst possible place for Kansas City as Mewis – who had another solid match – crushed it into the corner for her fourth goal of the season (and second against her former team).

The game continued to be end-to-end, Kranich denying Groom in the 65th minute before Boston substitute Riley Houle, just seconds into her first professional appearance, got a clear breakaway in the 71st minute and rounded Rowland, but took a little too much time, allowing former Breaker Amy LePeilbet to poke it away.

The winner came in the 78th minute on a beautifully worked team goal by the visitors. Sarah Hagen – who was very effective as a sub – flicked the ball to Jen Buczkowski, who slid a through ball to Groom. Groom looked like she might have held the ball too long, but beat Kranich at the near post for her fourth goal of the season to go with her two assists. Unfortunately, just a minute later, Groom collided with Kranich on a through ball and left the field on crutches with a right ankle injury.

The loss was a devastating blow to Boston’s playoff hopes, with the Breakers at 3-6-2 and now facing a home-and-home with what should be a full-strength Chicago in two weeks. However, although they will only get Alyssa Naeher back from the United States’ post-World Cup celebrations, they should have Kyah Simon and Rafinha in the lineup by then as well.

“It sucks to drop games at home,” Boston coach Tom Durkin said. “I’m disappointed and the girls are disappointed, but we just have to find a way to close these games out. The team’s not playing bad. Coaching this team is like going to sleep on a cold New England night without a blanket. If I cover my head, my feet are cold and if I cover my feet, my head is cold. I need to get a bigger blanket and I hope that’s coming in the form of getting our whole 20-man roster soon.”

  • Lance Scallop

    What a game from Groom. I hope her foot is OK.

    • GT

      I have been critical of Groom’s sometimes “reckless” play. But I agree she played a great game and the play she injured her foot on was not reckless.She’s an exciting player to watch.

      • FootballNowAndAlways

        I saw all the so-called reckless plays that have been charged to Groom, and IMO they seemed like you average, garden variety aggressive move to me.

        Why was one forward seemingly getting under every opponent’s skin, I wondered? Seeing that Groom had a diminutive build, I decided to check google images for answers, to see what her facial appearance was like. Sometimes a person’s facial appearance, believe it or not can give us a clue to mystifying events swirling around him or her. And in Groom’s case, I suspect her appearance has everything to do with her clashes with opponents in the league.

        Shea Groom is small of build, and if you see her face, you will notice she looks much younger and more innocent than her 22 years would suggest. She could pass for 14 or maybe even younger with the proper lighting. This is no knock on her. Some people just have baby faces. Becky Saurbrunn also has such a face. Sometimes when she smiles she looks like a high school girl, even though she is 30.

        So in the case of Groom, combine her baby face, which scares no one, a diminutive figure and skills to strike envy in the hearts of opponents, it is easy why she easily attracts rancor. Personally, I think it’s just plain jealousy driving her antagonists. Her small build and cherubic face just make it easier for them. I don’t think these opponents would pull any of these stunts with Tancredi, for instance.

        • Lorehead

          I really don’t agree. I’ve seen her do stuff, which sometimes but not always gets carded, that I can understand (although not condone) the impulse to retaliate for.

          • FootballNowAndAlways

            Could you be more specific about what you’ve seen her get away with? I particularly remember the one where she slid in to a ball being played by a goalie (sorry, don’t remember GK’s name off the top of my head) and the goalie knocked/shoved her to the ground in anger. Some people said that was reckless, but I remember watching several replays of the encounter and her knees looked bent with her feet sort of pointed to the ground. It certainly wasn’t a studs-up challenge.

          • Lorehead

            That was one; there was another before Zerboni stomped her.

          • FootballNowAndAlways

            Well I don’t think she was guilty of dangerous play in the first. I do think the GK overreacted. The Zerboni incident I haven’t seen. Still I think a lot of players would have reacted differently in those situations if she was a burly player, or had a ferocious appearance.

          • JL

            I remember that incident very well. It was during the scoreless draw between KC and WNY when Groom made a late challenge on Chantel Jones. Part of Jones’ reaction may have been due to KC making a reckless challenge earlier in the game that got D’Angelo injured, hence why Jones was even in the game in the first place.

        • GT

          I know aggressive and I know reckless when I see it. And at times, not often, Groom has crossed the line. My only fear was that someone was going to get hurt.

        • guest

          Interesting theory, but wouldn’t opposing players be treating her like a puppy dog if has a cherubic face? She draws opposing players like Zerboni’s ire because she’s aggressive, maybe overly so in the case of keepers. Getting kicked in the foot like that by a keeper may serve as a lesson to her to give keepers more space.

          • FootballNowAndAlways

            But why should a keeper feel entitled to “more space,” especially in the case of a 50 – 50 ball both of them vied for with their feet. It’s not like the GK was trying to play the ball with her hands which would have made it delicate. The both went for the ball. In this case I do blame Groom, not for endangering another player, but for failing to take steps to protect herself. She should have known the GK would follow through with a kick and should have jumped or done something else to avoid it. Alex Morgan has been doing the same thing to prevent injury to herself. Simple self-preservation.

  • sweetjazz3

    Two of Chicago, Seattle, Washington, Portland, FCKC and Houston are going to miss the playoffs. All six could realistically (from my vantage point) win the title.

    • Lorehead

      Spot-on. This was a humdinger of a game, and I hope the fans were enjoying it so much they didn’t miss the stars, but I’m not sure how much it really tells us about how these teams will play when everyone gets back.

    • mockmook

      It’s crazy that FCKC can have talent like Averbuch and Laddish as subs. If O’Reilly doesn’t bring her A game, Tymrak will take her spot (assuming she isn’t replacing an injured Groom). Then Averbuch or Laddish will be at DM.

  • smallchief

    Boston is an energetic team that, contrary to my expectations, I enjoy watching. Boston really screwed up in the draft — giving away two high picks in exchange for one. McCaffrey is good, but not that good.

    KC’s Groom is maybe the second best rookie forward in the league, but the way she plays the game somebody is going to get injured — in this case her. I hope she’s okay.

  • Breakers fan

    I went to the game. Very painful one to lose for Boston fans, but we move on. Basically an even match, a lot of activity in front of goals, with each team missing some opportunities there. Groom is good. I though Kristie Mewis played just as well – if we’re comparing them, I’d say Groom had an edge in attacking, though Mewis’ goal was an excellent shot directed low into the right corner; but I’d give Mewis the edge in passing – some great feeds from her, if you watch the game. I walked by Groom on the way out. She was standing on crutches near the exit, her right foot wrapped in some clear plastic that appeared inflated. I thought I would see ice inside it but didn’t really. It was a bit puzzling to try to figure out what made it inflated – air? cold water? I almost talked to her but I would have interrupted another conversation she was having. I thought KC looked better than they did when they came to Boston about 4,5 weeks ago. I thought Mollie Pathman also played a very good game.

    • FootballNowAndAlways

      Thank you for your support.

  • guest

    Bogus taken out of the starting lineup and KC offense improves. Coincidence? Think not.

  • KG

    LePeilbet is the best defender in NWSL this season, and reunited with Sauerbrunn, the pair should be a powerhouse for the KC defense.

  • guest

    “It’s Vlatko’s world and I’m just living in it.”
    Funny remark by Tymrak, but I am a fan of hers.

  • Losing Groom is a huge blow to Kansas City. I would love to see a 2 forward pairing with her and Arod. I hope she’s okay.

    Also, the it was Averbuch who poked the ball away on that Riley Houle breakaway, not LeP.