PREVIEW: FC KANSAS CITY BEGINS TITLE DEFENSE WITH VISIT TO THE CHICAGO RED STARS
Kansas City and Chicago will battle for a spot in the 2015 NWSL final
CHICAGO, IL (September 12, 2015) – One year after lifting the National Women’s Soccer League trophy, FC Kansas City will begin its championship defense at Toyota Park when the Blues visit the Chicago Red Stars this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. CT. The semifinal will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 and in-game updates can be followed via Twitter at @BluesGameday.
Kansas City will enter the postseason as the only team to have earned a spot in the playoffs in each of the league’s three seasons, while the Red Stars play their first semifinal in NWSL history. Both teams met twice during the regular season, Chicago snapped a 2-1 win over FCKC at Swope Soccer Village on May 23rd followed by a hard fought 2-2 draw at Benedictine University with a late equalizer by Sarah Hagen on August 1st. Coach Rory Dames’ team leads the All-time series 4-3-2.
“I think one of the main reasons [for continued success] is that we kept the core of the team,” Coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Good leaders that enjoy the philosophy enjoy the style and believe in what we do. So everyone else that came onto the team, it was easy to buy in when we have some of the best players in the world.””
The Blues are coming off a six-game unbeaten streak (four wins and two ties) and a one-goal per game average, best in the league. In addition, goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart led the NWSL in cleans sheets (8) for the third consecutive season.
On the other hand, Chicago ended the regular season with a three-game unbeaten streak (one win and two draws). Red Stars’ goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc was voted Player of the Week after facing 10 shots and being forced to make nine saves last weekend in her team’s 1-1 draw against Houston.
FC Kansas City scored a total of 32 this season and one more than Chicago. On the road, Andonovski’s team is 4-4-2, while the Red Stars concluded their home campaign with an overall record of 3-1-6.
FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions Amy Rodriguez and Christen Press lead their teams with six and ten goals respectively followed by rookies Shea Groom (4) and Sofia Huerta (6). Also, Huerta is a finalist for the NWSL Rookie of the Year award.
In 2013 and 2014, Kansas City squared off against the Portland Thorns in the semifinals. The Blues fell 3-2 two years ago but were able to advance to the championship game last season, something team captain Becky Sauerbrunn will help the Blues tomorrow afternoon.
“I think it’s helped us in the past that we’ve got experience playing in the playoffs,” Becky Sauerbrunn said. “We’ve won a semi and we’ve lost a semi, so I think it’s good that we are bringing that experience into the game on Sunday.”
In case of winning, Kansas City will battle for the title against the winner of Seattle and Washington on Thursday October 1st at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.