Photos courtesy of ISI Photos
By Rachel Gaylor
Becoming a professional athlete is an honor in and of itself, but to be able to represent the team that represents your hometown is something even more special. Three FC Kansas City players get the opportunity to represent the city that they grew up in.
Midfielder Mandy Laddish grew up in Lee’s Summit, MO and graduated from Lee's Summit High School and went off to Notre Dame. Forward Shea Groom grew up in Liberty, MO and after graduating Liberty High School went to Texas A&M University. And forward Maegan Kelly attended St. Teresa’s Academy in her native Kansas City, MO before going off to Marquette. But all three are back home wearing the blue and white.
Laddish, who was drafted 20th overall by the Blues in 2014, played for the Blue Valley Stars, now Sporting Blue Valley, and has been impressed with how much the game has grown in the area.
“There wasn’t a lot of competition in the area,” she said. “So, to come back and see how all these fields have gone up and how much Kansas City soccer has exploded has been really fun to watch.”
Groom, the Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011, was drafted 12th overall in the 2015 draft after leading the Aggies to their first College Cup appearance in 2014.
“Seeing the development from the facilities standpoint,” she said. “Seeing the OP fields put in there, seeing the Olympic training center being built, seeing all the tournaments, it really feels like Kansas City is the soccer capital of America.”
Kelly was drafted in the fourth round by FCKC in 2014, but spent a few years overseas before returning for the 2017 season.
“It’s still growing in the area, which is great,” she said. “You can see it with the fields and how many tournaments we’re able to get here and people are actually able to come and experience Kansas City.”
All three players have enjoyed the opportunity to come back home and play in front of the people that have supported them throughout their careers.
“It’s a good feeling to come back,” Laddish said. “I get to play not only in front of my family and friends, but to continue to contribute to a growing sport and contribute to the community and bring women’s soccer into the spotlight.”
“It honestly means everything,” Groom said. “To be able to come back and play for this city, it truly means everything. And to play with players like Maegan Kelly and Mandy Laddish who I grew up playing against and playing with - it’s just special to be able to play in the city that you grew up in and the people that have been part of your career and part of your journey.”
“The biggest thing is having my family come and see me enjoy the game that I love to play,” Kelly said. “Since I played overseas, they haven’t really been able to see me play since college besides watching online and even then the video feed might not work, so just having them be able to watch me play is really special.”
Catch the Hometown Kids and the rest of the Blues this Saturday as they travel to play the Orlando Pride in Orlando, FL at 6:30 p.m. CT. The team will return home to host the North Carolina Courage on July 22nd at 7:00 p.m. CT. Tickets are available here.