Merritt Mathias: The Chameleon

By
Updated: July 30, 2013
Tweet
Tweet
Mathias_Feature_Web

by: Lindsey Daley,
Special contributor to FCKansasCity.com

FC Kansas City has many factors attributing to the success the team has seen in this inaugural season. Some may say the allocation of international players mixed with the depth in the bench. One factor that may be overlooked is the ability of defender/midfielder/forward Merritt Mathias to play wherever coach Vlatko Andonovski puts her.

The Birmingham native grew up playing as a forward. Even through her time at the University of North Carolina and Texas A&M, Mathias played at the front of the offense.  Upon arrival to Kansas City, Andonovski had other plans for the 23-year-old: the back line. “At first, to be quite honest, I was a little upset.” Her new spot on the field was the complete opposite of what had brought her to the professional level. Mathias would now be reading and trying to stop plays she would normally be making herself. The swap left Merritt with a tough decision: start games in a new position or sit on the bench and wait for a chance at forward or midfield. She chose starting in a defender as a new challenge. It was an opportunity to strengthen her overall skills and train with what has developed into the best defense in the National Women’s Soccer League. “(I wanted to) earn the respect of the back line.” Moving from forward to a spot in a solid defense is nothing short of intimidating. Powerhouse Canadians Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann balancing the calm, cool, collected Becky Sauerbrunn, Jen Buczkowski and Leigh Ann Robinson, Merritt’s nerves were warranted.

After a few matches in the backline, Andonovski moved Merritt up to midfield. This way she could get back when needed, but when the ‘Blues’ had the ball, she could make plays and push forward. “My main focus now is to get forward and create chances.” She has two goals and two assists for the season, but is a driving force behind the ball moving in to the box for FC Kansas City. Teammate Erika Tymrak has played against Merritt in college and said “You can literally put her anywhere and she is dangerous.” Mathias is one of four ‘Blues’ that has played in every match this season; she has racked up 1,489 minutes on the pitch.

The passionate fans, or ‘Blue Crew’, play a big role in motivation for Mathias and the rest of FC Kansas City.  An average home attendance of over 4,500 is bigger than most capacities around the NWSL. “The support that we get here, I don’t think is compared to any other.” Fans stick around after the game to get autographs, pictures and talk with Merritt. Support is shown during road games, too. Fans will tweet words of encouragement to the team and watch matches online.

The women of FC Kansas City also try to give back to their marvelous supporters. Merritt and the rest of the ‘Blues’ recently appeared at a Kansas City Make-A-Wish event and have hosted many camps for area kids.

Merritt’s future with FC Kansas City is not a shade less than bright. Coach Andonovski challenged her and opened a whole new door of potential in her. This makes her essential the ‘Blues’ and any other team she plays for in the future. For example: the United States’ Women’s National Team. “I’ve had my sights set on playing for the national team since I was five years old.” There is something Merritt wants to do first, though. Like her teammates, Mathias wants to hold that inaugural championship trophy up above her head.

FC Kansas City sits in first as the playoffs near, meaning Mathias could be posing with that trophy and on her way to the international stage. What started as an unfortunate challenge turned out to be the star maker for Merritt Mathias.