Kansas City might be the new home of soccer. Sporting KC were 2013 MLS champs. Now FC Kansas City are 2014 NWSL champions.
It’s hard to call them underdogs, but when up against the 16-2-6 Seattle Reign FC, most fans and experts would not have been on the side of the Blues. Even away from home and facing the best team in the league, FCKC was able to capture the final victory of the season.
The Blues were forced to whether the storm of Seattle’s relentless attack and high pressure in the opening 20 minutes. FCKC was forced on their heels giving the defense an early test with little possession.
A momentum shift in the 19th minute was felt by all 4,252 fans at Starfire Stadium when a bouncing ball in the Seattle eighteen landed in front of Blues midfielder Jenna Richmond. Her one time volley beat Hope Solo but sailed wide right, grazing the outside of the post. From then on the game belonged to Kansas City.
Amy Rodriquez was able to open the scoring just four minutes later on the counterattack. Lauren Holiday dribbled through the middle uncontested, playing a perfectly timed through ball to Rodriquez. When Seattle keeper Hope Solo came out to meet the shot, Rodriquez saw her opportunity to chip a shot over the keeper for the 1-0 lead.
Seattle pushed for an equalizer before the half but were unable to convert in the final third. A dangerous Seattle front six, which included league MVP Kim Little, had several chances for an equalizer, but could not find the back of the net.
The Reign’s offensive struggle continued into the second half. First taking dominance in the midfield with quick passing and a high press offense but once again giving up the goal on the counterattack.
In the 55th minute the Blues worked up the right side of the pitch eventually finding Holiday, who turned to make a 30-yard dash into the box while weaving between two Seattle defenders before finding Rodriquez once again for the goal.
“I was actually trying to score myself,” said Holiday, “but they obviously closed me down. I just tried to get free and once I got free I saw A-Rod up at the of the penalty spot and found her. She had a great finish.”
It was the same story for Seattle who continued to find chances but could not convert with time running out. Reign had eight shots before midfielder Megan Rapinoe was finally able to pull one home in 87th minute off the corner.
But her goal came too late for Seattle who watched Jess Fishlock’s final shot of the game miss wide left before the whistle blew.
“We were playing the best team in the league, hands down,” said Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “(It’s an) unbelievable roster, great team, great organization. They were very well organized. We knew it was going to be a battle all the way through. We came ready to battle, and I’m just glad the girls battled all the way through for 90 minutes.”