Microcosm of FC Kansas City’s Season: This season has been a perpetual Groundhog Day for the Blues. The team played well enough to walk away with at least a draw, hitting the woodwork a few times, but ultimately fell on a couple of mistakes. The team’s play certainly didn’t match their place in the standings. They were well organized and even had arguably the best player on the field Saturday in Erika Tymrak. In the end, it didn’t matter, the game ended in a manner that was all too familiar for Kansas City fans this season.
“This result is disappointing but I don’t think the game itself anything went wrong for us,” FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “In fact, I was really happy. I thought we were really disciplined. We were playing well throughout the whole game and what went wrong was two clearances and that’s what happened.”
When asked about how frustrating this season has been Andonovski called it a good learning experience and said he felt that the team has been better organized defensively than in year’s past. The difference is this season, his team is paying for defensive mistakes were they didn’t in the past.
The bright spot on the night for Kansas City had to be the debut of Brianne Reed at right back. The Rutgers product made some solid runs forward and positioned herself well to stymie Washington’s attack in key moments. Simply put, unless told a casual observer would not have guessed that Reed was logging her first minutes in an NWSL uniform.
Depth Won the Game for the Spirit : If you look at the box score, there’s one big difference between the Spirit and FC Kansas City other than the scoreline. The Spirit used all three of their subs in the match, while the Blues only made one substitution. In short, Washington won this game in large part because even with five starters away on Olympic duty, players like Cheyna Williams and Ordega are still available to come in and add a spark off the bench.
“She’s a great player to start for us but when she comes off the bench she’s even better, “ Spirit midfielder Christine Nairn said about Ordega’s impact on the game, “I think she does really well at reading the game and what she needs to bring to it and her pure athleticism is hard to handle especially when she goes in for the last 30 minutes of the game. If she can spin their defenders like she did, I think she’s going to continue to be successful.”
Strategically, bringing on the speed and athleticism of players like Ordega and Williams is going to be difficult for the opposing team to deal with late in any game but it’s even more important with shorter benches and fewer options. From the beginning of the season, Gabarra has spoken numerous times about how deep he feels his squad is. Ordega, who’s now scored 2 goals in just 160 minutes played, has proven Gabarra right.
Defensively, the Spirit had to replace half its backline as well as its keeper. Although not perfect, the Spirit defense actually seemed more in sync than last week. Also, not many teams can call upon a player with Estelle Johnson’s wealth of experience to fill one of the voids left by national team players’ departures.
Not So Pretty Game: Saturday night’s game was, for lack of a better word, a snoozefest. There weren’t a lot of thrilling moments in this game. Neither goal is a top prospect for end-of-year highlight reels. In the end, though, scoring not-so-thrilling goals is worth as much as tallies spawned from electrifying moments.
Although the Spirit’s depth carried them through this game, the absence of national team players on both sides was certainly felt. While every single player on these rosters is a world class athlete, there’s no sense in denying the caliber of play is lower with the national team players away. There’s likely to be more games like this one in the next few months.
In the other hand, Saturday night in some respects, felt like opening night of the season with players trying to establish a rhythm with each other, which makes sense given the fact that some of these players haven’t played together all season. The level of play should improve during this stretch with national team players away as teams get used to different personnel on the field.
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