KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Fresh off their first National Women’s Soccer League title, FC Kansas City has jumped into the offseason with both feet. The team is expected to announce a trade today that will bring U.S. women’s national team midfielder Heather O’Reilly to Kansas City from the Boston Breakers, as first reported by The Equalizer. The blockbuster deal will see Morgan Marlborough and Kassey Kallman head to Boston.
The results mean a potential starting midfield line for Kansas City with 2014 NWSL Championship MVP Lauren Holiday flanked by O’Reilly and Erika Tymrak.
O’Reilly gives Kansas City even more weapons in an already dangerous midfield. She is a veteran of three Olympic gold-medal winning teams and two World Cup teams, fitting perfectly into a Kansas City team that already boasts eight players with senior U.S. national team experience.
Allocated to the Boston Breakers in 2013, O’Reilly led her team in goals and assists each of the past two years. Her nine goals and five assists in 2014 were a bright spot in an otherwise difficult year for the Breakers, who finished 6-16-2 for the second-worst record in the league.
O’Reilly has been a durable player throughout her professional and international career. Currently she holds the U.S. Soccer record for most consecutive games played, making 74 straight appearances between 2007 and 2011. She has appeared in 42 of 46 NWSL games over the past two seasons, missing only four games while with the national team.
Heading east are two promising young players in Marlborough and Kallman, who was Kansas City’s first-round draft pick in 2014 at No. 5 overall. Marlborough is currently on loan at Glasgow City FC, where she has three goals in seven appearances for the Scottish Women’s Premier League leaders. Kansas City selected Marlborough in the second round of the 2014 NWSL College Draft. She made nine appearances and scored two goals in her rookie season.
Behind team-leading scorer Amy Rodriguez and Sarah Hagen, playing time was tough to come by for Marlborough in Kansas City. Standing at six feet tall and with a nose for the goal, she should be able to provide a great addition to a Boston attack in need.
Perhaps the biggest risk for Kansas City with the trade comes in the loss of Kallman, who was immediately inserted into the starting lineup last season. A center back in college, she was able to adjust into an outside back role through the season. In the playoffs, she did particularly well to defend against Portland and Seattle’s explosive offenses, contributing to the team’s defensive prowess on their championship run.
Kallman could slide back into her natural position in Boston, which needs defensive help. In 2014, the Breakers allowed a league-worst 53 goals. At one point, Boston experimented with Courtney Jones, a natural forward, at center back in an attempt to close the gaping holes in their defense.
For Kansas City, the loss in defense is expected to be filled by a healthy Amy LePeilbet. The U.S. national team veteran made her return to professional soccer midway through last season after recovering from 2013 knee surgery. Although she made strides throughout the season, she was not at the level that saw her play in five of the six matches of the 2012 Olympics. The feeling in Kansas City is that by the end of the season, LePeilbet had regained a lot of the form that saw her become a national team mainstay. With a full and healthy offseason under her belt, they fully expect her to be an integral part of the Blues’ defense in 2015 and beyond.
The other questions that arrive for Kansas City with this trade are what to do when they are missing players to their World Cup duties. O’Reilly is expected to be one of the 23 players the U.S. will take to Canada. Theoretically, her spot can be filled by Frances Silva, who will be in her second season next year. The Overland Park, Kan., native showed great potential last season playing for her hometown team, drawing comparisons to teammate Tymrak for her technical abilities and creativity on the field.
Defensively, LePeilbet will be able to join Nikki Phillips at center back while Becky Sauerbrunn is away. It is unclear who would then play outside back, but it is apparent there are plans in the works for that spot.
Additionally, while some have speculated that players could be missing eight or nine games for World Cup duties, the team thinks they may only miss as few as three or four games with the expected NWSL schedule.
The feeling around FC Kansas City is that this is just the beginning for the defending champions. There are expectations that several more changes may be made in the next few months before the 2015 NWSL College Draft, although not necessarily as significant as Monday’s trade.
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