FC Kansas City, the 2014 NWSL Champions are back in town and there will be a celebration of their victory tonight at the Granfalloon Restaurant and Bar on the Country Club Plaza from 6:30 to 8:00. The Blues defeated the Reign in Seattle Sunday to finish their redemption story after losing in the first round last season.
This is the third title for pro soccer teams in Kansas City in the last year. Sporting Kansas City are the defending MLS Cup champions, the Missouri Comets are the defending (and final) MISL champions (new league formed) and now the Blues are the defending NWLS champions.
Many Kansas City fans took the opportunity to proclaim Kansas City the "soccer capital" or "THE soccer city" or some version of it. We know Sporting Kansas City is immensely popular and you are likely to see SKC t-shirts and jerseys wherever you go now, quite a change from the old Wizards days. The Comets draw way fewer but do pretty well in the Independence Events Center.
The women however did not draw as well this year as they did last. Yes they moved to a smaller stadium at UMKC. The field is far better, there are no football lines and while there are fewer seats, it is closer and more intimate. It would be understandable if they drew somewhere close to capacity most games but sadly they did not.
There are a lot of reasons why they did not draw as well and all of that will be better to go into in a different article. All that is needed here is to say it is sad that more Kansas City soccer fans did not get to see this team play.
Go ahead, jump on the bandwagon
Like most things in life, people love a winner. Kansas City fans were talking about the FC Kansas City win and "soccer city" all over social media. Many of those people probably never saw a game. That's okay, jump on the bandwagon. Go to a game or two or ten next year. They play entertaining soccer, a good style and with a lot of heart.
While mentally taking note to get tickets for next year, stop by and say hi to the team tonight. Watch the SKC game and meet some of these fantastic and talented players. It's okay if you do not know all of them. Congratulate them, chat with them. There are players on this team from Kansas City and there are players who have played in World Cup finals, won Olympics. Now they have won a league title, for themselves and for Kansas City.
Get to know the players
It's a little late in the season to get to know the players but let me introduce them anyway. I will start in goal and work my way to the front.
#18 Nicole Barnhart - She is an absolute fearless warrior on the field and the most soft spoken and gentle off of it. "Barnie" has played hurt for longer than most players have careers. She has been the backup keeper for the U.S. for a long time and she just outplayed the U.S. starter (Hope Solo).
#1 Sara Keane - West Virginia graduate that was not called upon very much (Barnie refuses to sit) but played well when needed. Seemed to get better every week this year.
#4 Becky Sauerbrunn - "Broon" was a regular backup center back with the U.S. but over the last two years has established herself as the clear first choice. Team captain, great leader, thoughtful, intelligent, and as dedicated to her craft as possible. Not from KC but still a Midwest girl (St. Louis). Think Matt Besler with way more national team experience. Her coach says she is the best center back in the world right now and very few disagree.
#13 Leigh Ann Robinson - She mainly plays outside back and played almost every game. Robinson gets up and down the sideline as well as anyone in the league.
#14 Kassey Kallman - First round draft pick and was one of the two rookies that FC Kansas City heavily relied upon this year. Played outside back for the Blues and did so well against some of the best players in the world you would never know she was a rookie.
#17 Amy LePeilbet - The Blues traded a first round pick for LePeilbet. She was an amazing story just to get back on the field after a long recovery from knee surgery. Played in a World Cup and Olympics with massive knee damage but knew she may never get another chance. It took a while to get her on the field but once she was ready she gave the Blues an option that could play anywhere on the back line or in the midfield.
#23 Nikki Phillips - She was Sauerbrunn's centerback partner at Virginia and plays for Poland also. Doesn't mind dropping the hammer on opponents when need and walks away with a smile.
#6 Jen "Buz" Buczkowski - played every match, and was a true iron woman. The Blues typically play a 4-2-3-1 formation and Buz is normally tasked with keeping the best midfielders on the other team under control. Better offensive play than most realize.
#7 Jenna Richmond - The other rookie that started most games and partners with Buz and directs traffic away from goal. Was overlooked a bit in the draft but proved how good she can be. Should get a look from the U.S. in near future.
#9 Merrit Mathias - Willing to play anywhere the coach asks and will run until she has nothing left. Often not the most talented player in the midfield but makes up for it with hard work and heart.
#12 Lauren Holiday - MVP in the most recent U.S. match and the NWSL Championship game. Has the ability to be the best player on the field in any match. Her pass to setup the first goal was perfect and her run to setup the second goal was Messi-like.
#15 Erika Tymrak - The 2013 NWSL Rookie of the year is the best pure dribbler and loves to take defenders on. A gymnast and ice skater in addition to soccer player when she was young gives her amazing balance. Offence dropped off a bit but her defense vastly improved this year.
#19 Katrina "Mini" Gorry - the diminutive Aussie is quick, hardworking and has a good shot from outside the box. Came to the team late in the season but gave some very needed minutes for the Blues.
#25 Mandy Laddish - came to the team mid-season after finishing up work at Notre Dame. A skilled midfielder did not get much time but the local player should see more time next season.
#5 Liz Bogus - Played as much at mid as at forward for Kansas City. Quick, all-around good player. Provided valuable depth for the Blues.
#8 Amy Rodriguez - U.S. veteran sat out last year while becoming a mother. Led the Blues in scoring all year and finished second in the league with 13. Her friendship with Holiday led to a chemistry that worked well and got better through the season.
#10 - Frances Silva - Another local player. She led West Virginia to Big 12 championship in college and helped FC Kansas City to the Championship in her first year. Silva played both mid and forward and that led to her getting some good minutes. Her scoring punch made her a regular sub.
#11 Morgan Marlborough - Tall, strong and good with her feet made this local player an obvious choice in the draft. With the A-Rod up top it was hard to get some time but Morgan contributed a couple goals.
#22 Sarah "Apple" Hagen - Joined midway through season from playing for Bayern Munich. Hagen played mid and forward and added size and goals to the mix.
#20 Molly Dreska - Maryland midfielder made the squad and had a good game in her one appearance this year. She managed the very rare double, a championship in NWSL and MLS (front office staff for Sporting KC).
#28 Missy Geha - Local players was the only reservist to be with the team both years.
Highlights from FC Kansas City's win over Seattle