”]Goals from Lauren Cheney and Merritt Mathias delivered a comprehensive 2-0 victory for FC Kansas City over Portland Thorns FC that moved the Blues into 3rd place just three points behind the Thorns for a semifinal host position. Kansas City held the lions’ share of possession throughout and the Thorns were stung by Cindy Parlow Cone’s decision to use all three subs by the middle of the second half. Right back Marian Dougherty wound up missing the final 10 minutes with what looked like a knee injury and the Thorns had to finish with 10 players.
“Every win is a big win, but the closer we come to the end of the season, we realize how important every game is and how big every win is,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “This win is a big confidence builder for us and shows that we can compete with every team in this league.”
Cheney put the hosts on top in the 10th minute with yet another in what has become a series of highlight reel goals for the U.S. international. The play began when Nikki Marshall sent an errant ball forward that was easily corralled by Leigh Ann Robinson, who found Cheney with far too much space in midfield. Cheney took a few dribbles towards the Thorns defenders and elected to shoot, unleashing a looping shot over everyone, including goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who had to untangle herself from the net as the Blues celebrated. LeBlanc was only a few yards off her line but it left Cheney enough space to slot home her eighth goal of the season to wrest the league lead away from Abby Wambach.
“We worked a lot this week on containing their attacks and attacking quick as soon as we win the ball,” Andonovski said descriving th play. “Cheney is a master of that and that’s what happened. She wins the ball and she moves forward.”
The rest of the half passed by without another goal and with the Thorns scuffling to find much of the ball. Christine Sinclair moved back to a striker position after several weeks lining up at the top of the midfield. That left Nikki Washington, Courtney Wetzel, and Tiffany Weimer in midfield with Allie Long sitting behind them. It was not enough to unlock the riddle that has seen the Thorns struggle to develop back-to-front buildup.
Weimer was subbed out at halftime in favor of Danielle Foxhoven. The Thorns’ super sub looked like she was onto something early when she helped create a few decent chances but they quickly dissolved into more possession for FC Kansas City.
Cheney nearly doubled the lead at the stroke of an hour thanks to a superb through-ball by Erika Tymrak. Cheney had two chances to score, the first of which was saved by an aggressive LeBlanc. The second was shot from a poor angle and easily cleared off the line by Kathryn Williamson, who had alertly scampered back to cover when Cheney got free.
The Thorns did not get so lucky in the 71st. Robinson played a cross toward the top of the penalty area and substitute Angie Kerr inadvertently knocked it towards the goal, where Mathias was able to get position on Williamson. Mathias—also a substitute in the match—looked like she was being pulled down by Williamson as she took a ginger touch up and over LeBlanc for her first NWSL goal and a 2-0 lead.
It was the second time in five days the Blues carried a 2-0 lead into the final 15 minutes. Wednesday in New Jersey they got sloppy in back and left with a 2-2 draw to Sky Blue FC. They did not let history repeat itself in front of 4,774 fans on hand.
Although the Thorns created a few chances down the stretch—Nicole Barnhart made a nice save on a Sinclair header and Morgan nearly had one in the 90th on a defensive miscue—they never looked like a side playing well enough to crawl back into the match.
FC Kansas City (7-4-2, 23 points) are off to Washington for a Wednesday night match. The Thorns (8-3-2, 26 points) next play Saturday night at home to the Boston Breakers.
-Courtney Jones left late in the first half and was replaced afterwards by Mathias. According to the FC Kansas City webcast Jones was suffering from dehydration. Wednesday, Vlatko Andonovski pulled her during the 1st half and said the tough schedule was partly to blame.
-Morgan’s chance in the 90th minute was similar to the two late goals Sky Blue scored in Wednesday in that the entire Blues defense allowed a lofted ball to fall in the box.
-The teams have now split three matches with a win each following the season-opening draw. They will meet again August 4 in Portland.
Portland Thorns FC (8-3-2, 26pts) at FC Kansas City (7-4-2, 23pts)
June 30, 2013 – Verizon Wireless Field (Overland Park, Kan.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
POR 0 0 0
KC 1 1 2
KC: Cheney (Robinson), 10
KC: Mathias (Robinson), 71
Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc; D Marian Dougherty, D Kathryn Williamson, D Rachel Buehler, D Nikki Marshall, M Nikki Washington (Kerr, 62), M Tiffany Weimer (Foxhoven, 46), M Courtney Wetzel (Shim, 72), M Allie Long, F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Alex Morgan
Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, D Emilee O’Neil
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Sinclair, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Sinclair, 4); FOULS: 5 (Dougherty, 2); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 4
KC: GK Nicole Barnhart; D Kristie Mewis, D Lauren Sesselmann, D Becky Sauerbrunn, D Leigh Ann Robinson, M Erika Tymrak, M Jen Buczkowski, M Desiree Scott, M Lauren Cheney, F Courtney Jones (Mathias, 46), F Melissa Henderson (Cuellar, 83)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Bianca Henninger, D Nia Williams, M Sinead Farrelly, M Katie Kelly, F Tiffany Cameron
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Cheney, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Cheney, 3); FOULS: 6 (Two players tied, 2); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 5
Referee: Christina Unkel
Assistant Referees: Jennifer Jones, Adrienne McDonald
Fourth Official: Kyle Atkins
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 79 degrees
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