Record: 9-6-5, 32 points
Finish: Third in regular-season play; league champion, defeating Seattle Reign FC in the final
Did your team finish third place in the standings? Was it the lowest your team has ever finished in the regular-season standings? No problem. Just defend the title and no one will even care what place you came in during the regular season. This approach worked for FC Kansas City, as the Blues took home their second consecutive NWSL title to become the first team to win back-to-back titles. The Blues did just enough, and to be fair, had enough depth to hold out while key players were missing during the World Cup.
Losses and Additions
Well. This section is approximately zero percent fun to write. Long story short, everyone retired. Lauren Holiday, Liz Bogus, Amy LePeilbet, and Leigh Ann Brown all said goodbye to professional soccer. On top of that, Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux will miss the season due to pregnancy. The Blues also traded away Becca Moros and Sarah Hagen. In return the Blues received Brittany Taylor, and no one taken by Orlando. In part of the trades to acquire the aforementioned Sydney Leroux, Kansas City also received Tiffany McCarty. Perhaps the biggest addition for the Blues this offseason was the return of Desiree “The Destroyer” Scott from her time in England’s FA Women’s Super League with Notts County. Through the draft, the club added Katie Bowen, Alexa Newfield, and Alex Arlitt.
There are maybe two or three teams in the league that have zero questions at the goalkeeper position. The Blues have Nicole Barnhart, the experienced veteran who can still very much ball with the rest of them, and heir apparent Katelyn Rowland who has a lot of upside. We’re done here.
Defensively, it’s a bit thin. Perennial defensive player of the year Becky Sauerbrunn will hold down the fort until the Olympics, but who else will be starting with her? Rookie Brianne Reed has a shot to make a mark, and Brittany Taylor is a seasoned starter in the league. The Blues will need more defenders while Katie Bowen misses time. No part of me sees rookie Alex Arlitt as a starter, but she could provide minutes off the bench when needed, and Amanda Frisbie will be called upon.
The midfield has the heavy job of replacing Lauren Holiday. Luckily, most midfield pieces from last season return. Jen Buczkowski should be her usual solid, underrated self, and Erika Tymrak will continue to be a key cog on the offense when she’s locked in. Yael Averbuch returns along with Heather O’Reilly, and returnee Desiree Scott should pick up where she left off with the Blues in 2013.
The losses of Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux for the season leaves the forward position a little bare. Shea Groom has been absolutely killing it this offseason, and I sincerely hope her solid play continues into the regular season as well. Tiffany McCarty will also be a potential option for Kansas City up top. Other than that there isn’t much. Draftee Alexa Newfield is listed as a midfielder on the preseason roster, but could be an option farther up the field.
Off the Field
Just a few off-the-field notes, none of which should really cause too many changes for the squad. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski is still valiantly leading the charge, and home games will be played at Swope Soccer Village. However, FC Kansas City will play two home games, including its 2016 season opener, at Children’s Mercy Park, home of Sporting Kansas City. The Blues also added two new assistant coaches in Matt Briggs and Milan Ivanovic, and launched an affiliate program to work with local women’s soccer clubs.
The It Factor
April, May, and June. Last season the Blues absolutely tore through the last two months of the season, not losing a single game in August, September, and of course, October. The first half of the season was a much different story. Coming out of the gates, Kansas City dropped games that NWSL champions should not be losing, period. Of their six losses this past season, half of them came to teams with records under .500. Of their five draws, three came against teams with records under .500. It’s hard to criticize a team’s early regular season performance when they simply turned it on when it mattered to win the championship, but at some point Kansas City is going to have to stomp their foot down on the gas pedal from the get-go and beat the teams they’re supposed to beat.
2016 Opening Day Roster
19 of 20 spots filled:
Becky Sauerburnn (Federation Player, USA)
Katie Bowen (International Player, New Zealand)
Desiree Scott (Federation Player, Canada)
Heather O’Reilly (Federation Player, USA)
The team still holds the contracts of Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux, but they will miss the season due to pregnancy.