FC Kansas City’s ironwoman midfielder Jen Buczkowski is retiring from professional soccer following next Friday’s home match against the Chicago Red Stars. Originally a free agent signing by FC Kansas City, Buczkowski has started every match the club has ever played–69 in the regular season and five more in the playoffs. She will begin physical therapy school at University of Kansas Medical Center on June 1. The club was aware Buczkowski was not likely to finish out the season when they signed her for 2016.
“It will be difficult to transition from playing soccer every day to being in the classroom, but I am excited to start that next journey,” Buczkowski said.
Buczkowski set a record at Notre Dame by appearing in 103 matches and carried that durability to her professional career where she was the 39th overall pick by Sky Blue FC in the 2009 WPS draft. She played only sparingly that season but was thrust into a starting, central defense role for the playoffs when Anita Asante was forced to leave the club to join England for the European Championships. Buczkowski excelled playing next to Christie Rampone and helped Sky Blue on a week-long odyssey that saw them win playoff games in Washington, St Louis, and Los Angeles to claim an unlikely championship.
Paul Riley took notice and brought Buczkowski to the Philadelphia Independence the following season as the third overall pick in the expansion draft. In Philadelphia, Buczkowski settled into her familiar role as a destroying central defensive midfielder, a position she has not relinquished since. The Independence reached the WPS final both years with Buczkowski, losing both times.
When WPS went under, Buczkowski went to Chicago where she played for Rory Dames in the Red Stars in a league called WPSL Elite. Again she reached the final and again she was on the losing side.
“When you go to the finals almost every year and win as many championships as you have, it has to have something to do with Bucz,” FC Kansas City coach Vlakto Andonovski said. “Her stats speak for themselves.”
Andonovski and general manager Huw Williams convinced Buczkowski to join FC Kansas City as a free agent ahead of the first NWSL season. In 2013 the Blues lost in the semifinals to the Portland Thorns, the only time in Buczkowski’s professional career she did not reach the final. The last two years, with Buczkowski in her familiar midfield role, FC Kansas City won the NWSL Championship.
“Bucz was one of the first players who made the commitment to join our club back in 2012. She was a player who was very much wanted by all of the other clubs, but she put her faith in an organization that had no history in women’s professional soccer,” Williams said echoing similar comments he made about Leigh Ann Robinson (Brown) upon her retirement last offseason. “There’s no doubt in my mind that her commitment went a long way in helping us attain the success we have experienced over the past three years. Her ironman performances on the field have been legendary but it has truly been a pleasure getting to know Bucz off the field. She is a class player and a person. She will be a big loss but we wholeheartedly wish her the very best.”
Buczkowski is the only player left never to have missed an NWSL match. She played every minute in 2013, extending her regular season minutes streak to 3,122 before being subbed out of a match on June 6, 2014. Buczkowski also played every minute for the Independence in 2011.
Despite her successes and respect from peers, Buczkowski has been short on accolades. She has never received so much as a camp invite from the national team and has never been named to the NWSL’s Best XI or Second XI.
She intends to keep coaching in the Kansas City area while she attends physical therapy school.
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