KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Thursday’s rematch of last year’s NWSL championship game lived up to the promised excitement as FC Kansas City edged the Seattle Reign, 1-0. Amy Rodriguez notched her first goal of the year in the 49th minute to lead her side to its first win of the season and hand the Reign their first back-to-back losses since 2013.
“It feels good to get on the scoreboard,” Rodriguez said. “This is my last game before heading to the World Cup and I feel good leaving the team with a win. Hopefully this is something they can build on while we’re gone.”
The match started much like the last time these two teams played. Seattle controlled play and moved through their first two-thirds of the field, but Kansas City held their defensive third and only allowed one shot on goal in the first half. Throughout the match, Reign players would find themselves attacking but would stall as they neared net.
“I think we’re a side where…when we score goals, we score great goals,” said Seattle coach Laura Harvey “We very rarely score the horrible goal. That’s probably one thing we need to look at. We need to be in a position to score the horrible goal, you know the one that hits off someone’s face and goes in rather than the perfect build up and the perfect finish.”
FC Kansas City took an unconventional approach to stopping Seattle’s attempts at ‘great goals’. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski opted to insert Sarah Hagen on the top line with Rodriguez, leaving Jen Buczkowski to man the defensive midfield position by herself. Removing a defender isn’t a normal strategy against one of the league’s best scoring teams, but Andonovski felt that a good offense would be his team’s best defense.
“We analyzed the past two games a lot and we felt there were a few little things missing and we felt bringing in Apple (Hagen) was going to bring us those little things, especially against Seattle,” said Andonovski.
One of the little things Andonovski referred to was the isolation he felt Rodriguez had on the top in the previous games, both of which Kansas City lost. No NWSL team has ever started a season with three consecutive losses.
Partnering Hagen with Rodriguez bridged the gap between the midfield and the forwards in a way they hadn’t been able to in previous games. The two forwards were able to attack together, at times holding up play and allowing Erika Tymrak, Lauren Holiday and Heather O’Reilly to join the pressure.
For her part, Harvey wouldn’t have minded if Rodriguez had left for the World Cup one game sooner.
“She is quick, she is clever,” Harvey said of Rodriguez. “We know this about her and we know her traits, but when she is on form, in my opinion there is not many better than her.”
After scoring two goals in last year’s championship, Rodriguez was once again a pain in Seattle’s side. The play that led to the goal was typical FC Kansas City soccer. Becky Sauerbrunn won the ball in her half of the field, making a quick pass out of danger to Holiday, who was checking back towards the back line. Holiday played the ball back to Sauerbrunn and quickly under pressure, she found Hagen 20 feet straight up the field.
Without looking, Hagen hit a two-touch pass straight through two defenders where Rodriguez could run onto it. Having passed Seattle’s backline, Rodriguez needed just a soft chip to loft the ball over an oncoming Hope Solo for the game’s only score.
In front of 2,466 fans at their new home, Swope Soccer Village, FC Kansas City got their first win of the season. The ‘Swopener,’ as the team referred to it after playing its first home match of the year at Sporting Park, brought a much-needed victory against the best of opponents.
FCKC Starting XI: Barnhart; Moros, Sauerbrunn, LePeilbet, Robinson; Buczkowski, O'Reilly, Holiday, Tymrak; Hagen, Rodriguez #FCKCvSRFC
— NWSL (@NWSL) April 23, 2015
#SRFC Starting XI: Solo; Barnes, Fletcher, Cox, Reed; Mathias, Winters, Fishlock; Little, Yanez, Rapinoe #FCKCvSRFC
— NWSL (@NWSL) April 23, 2015
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