Nicole Barnhart: 100 NWSL Regular Season Appearances
Photos courtesy of ISI Photos
On April 13, 2013 Nicole Barnhart led FC Kansas City onto the field for the first time. Tonight, as she sets the bar once again for National Women’s Soccer League goalkeepers, she will lead her team onto the field for the 100th time.
‘Barnie’, as she is affectionately known to her fans and teammates, has been the model of consistency for FC Kansas City and the NWSL in general. In the five years of its existence, FC Kansas City has leaned on her to be the backstop of their defense. She won Goalkeeper of the Year in 2013 with her 10 shutouts that season.
Those 10 clean sheets are still the most by any goalkeeper in a single season. Since then, Barnie has set a pace that no other keeper has been able to keep up with. Her 36 career NWSL shutouts are far and away more than any other goalkeeper in the league.
She is never flashy or outlandish, but methodical and calculating. She sizes up her opponents and knows their tendencies better than they do. More often than not, her saves are a product of research and positioning.
Over the history of the league, FC Kansas City has had one of the stronger defenses in the league, thanks in large part to Barnhart’s play. Her teammates know that they can rely on her to be in the right place at the right time.
“Consistency is often times underappreciated,” said FCKC captain Becky Sauerbrunn. “But in the years I’ve played, I’ve come to value the consistency so much. In large part that’s because of Barnie. She is so dependable both on and off the field.”
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has relied on his goalkeeper throughout the past five seasons as well. His faith in his goalkeeper has allowed him to use offensive-minded players effectively on the back line. Players such as Kristie Mewis, Merritt Mathias, and most recently, Yael Averbuch, have flourished in FC Kansas City’s defense thanks to the leadership of their goalkeeper.
“Barnie is one of the most veteran and consistent players in the women’s game. Her dedication to the game and FC Kansas City is unmatched and it’s an absolute honor to take the field with her,” said Averbuch.
What fans see in the games is just one small part of what makes Barnie so special though. While her teammates rely on her to keep them in the game and help the team be successful on the field, they rely on her leadership and compassion away from the pitch.
Andonovski has spoken more than once about how his teams’ successes have come from the family atmosphere that lives in their locker room. This culture and locker room atmosphere is thanks in large part to Barnhart and her calm demeanor.
Although respected for her on-field play, what most who ever played with her will tell you is her cooking. As close to being a gourmet chef as a person could get while putting together a hall-of-fame caliber career, Barnie enjoys cooking for her teammates and having them over for dinner and conversation. The type of meal that instantly calms any arguments, encourages laughter and makes everyone feel at ease.
“Whether she’s keeping us in the game by making worldly saves or cooking dinner for some teammates, she’s always willing and wanting to do what’s best for the team," said Sauerbrunn.
Barnie has one of the most infectious smiles in the Blues locker room. She is quiet, but quick with the joke. She doesn’t flood the room with stories and anecdotes, but when she speaks everyone is quiet.
Nicole Barnhart is one of only three FCKC players left from that first NWSL game in April of 2013. She is the first goalkeeper in league history to hit 100 games, she holds every goalkeeping record for FC Kansas City and sits atop the NWSL record books in nearly every goalkeeping statistic category.
As she hits game #100 and beyond, she will be remembered by fans as one of the most consistent and best players in the game. More importantly to her, however, she will be known by her teammates as one of the best friends and leaders they have every had the pleasure to know.
See Barnie and her teammates close out the 2017 season. FC Kansas City single game tickets can be purchased here.