FC Kansas City became the first team in the NWSL to clinch a playoff spot when they defeated the Thorns 3-2 in Portland in front of a record crowd Sunday evening. The announced 17,619 at Jeld-Wen Field saw the Blues' Lauren Holiday score her league leading eleventh and twelfth and Kristie Mewis scored her first goal to seal the victory.
"It feels good, I've got to congratulate the girls on the great effort and the heart they have," FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski said after the match. "At times it wasn't pretty but it was effective. "
The first half ended 1-0 with the lone goal by Holiday but Andonovski was not pleased. Portland had carried more of the play with FC Kansas City having periods of control but allowing too many chances. "We drifted away from what we were doing for the last twenty games, we talked about it at half and made some adjustments, we slowly but surely got back to our game. "
The second half was a little more even and the Blues started to exert more control as the half went on. Holiday's second goal came in the 55th minute when Erika Tymrak flicked a ball into her path. Karina LeBlanc got a hand on the shot but it trickled in past the Thorns' keeper.
Kristie Mewis showed how dangerous she can be coming out of the back when she launched a blast that LeBlanc also got a hand on but was unable to keep from the net, extending the lead to 3-1. Mewis' goal turned out to be the game winner when Alex Morgan finally got one past Nicole Barnhart to close the gap to 3-2 in the waning minutes but it the Blues turned aside the Thorns last efforts to secure the win.
Tymrak continues to impress
The Blues Erika Tymrak played a major part in the first two goals. She played the ball out to Merritt Mathias before it was crossed in to Holiday. On the second goal Tymrak had tracked all the way back to defense and brought the ball forward, combining with Melissa Henderson and deftly flicking the ball to Holiday.
"That's Erika, her creativity is what makes her who she is," Andonovski stated. "Sometimes I don't know how she comes up with some of the stuff but it's very impressive."
A few minutes after the second goal, Tymrak collided with a Thorn defender and took a hit to the face resulting in a very bloody nose. She had to step off the field to get the bleeding to stop but was quickly back in and again helping FC Kansas City control the game.
Not only did Tymrak play well up and down the field before and after the injury before finally subbing out in the 80th minute but she started the game under the weather. "We needed that from her, we knew that she was playing a little bit sick to begin with," Andonovski explained. "The injury didn't help but we needed an extra five or ten minutes and she went in and gave us everything she had."
With the win, FC Kansas City (11-4-5) remained in first place with 38 points, four points ahead of Portland Thorns and Sky Blue FC and became the first team to clinch a playoff spot. "This is our first and small goal, the next is to get to the championship and the one after that is to win the whole thing. That's the big one," stated Andonovski. "We had a brief meeting after the game and we talked about doing a good job so far but we aren't going to stop here."
The Blues are now playing to secure the top spot and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With another win in their last two matches, the Blues would finish on top of the table and would host any playoffs.