Two-time defending champion's FC Kansas City notched their first win of 2016 Saturday night as they defeated the Orlando Pride 2-0 on goals from Yael Averbuch and Erika Tymrak. As in previous years, the Blues have struggled early in the season but like previous years have been putting in better performances as the season progresses.
Both teams were short-handed with U.S. players called up for national team camp and FC Kansas City started three rookies. Rookies Katie Bowen and Alex Arlitt flanked the defense and Alexa Newfield made her first start of her career.
"I think everyone did super-well." Erika Tymrak observed. "Like Vlatko said, it wasn't the prettiest game we've ever played but we clicked, we moved the ball around, we tackled and we finished our chances. I think players that started were ready and they stepped up."
The first half was relatively even with the Blues carrying the better of the play but the second half saw the defending champs exert more control.
In the 53rd minute the Blues were awarded a kick well outside the box when Tymrak was taken down. Averbuch stepped up and launched a shot through the wall that hit the Pride's Lianne Sanderson and deflected past keeper Aubrey Bledsoe for the first goal of the match.
The solid play and the goal seemed to keep building the Blues confidence. "The players confidence grew," Blues head coach Vlatko Andonovski noted. " Even though they were energetic and enthusiastic they felt like at some points they were not good enough and as the game went on they were more and more comfortable and they started to look like the team we know they can be. As the game went on, we started playing more comfortably and playing better. When they play comfortable they can use their creativity we can be very dangerous."
The possession for FC Kansas City and the pressure on Orlando steadily grew in the second half, ultimately resulting in the Blues second goal of the match. Tymrak received the ball from Bowen and passed up the first look at goal. With a touch to the right she placed a pair of Pride defenders between her and Orlando's keeper, screening the shot until it was too late for the keeper to react.
With the 2-0 lead, the Blues held on, not giving Orlando a lot of opportunities. As happy as Andonovski was for the goals, he was clearly proud of how well they defended as a team. "It wasn't one or two players that played defense," Andonovski stated. "It was a collective defensive effort that kept them away from our goal. They did it for each other, every single one of them knew that they weren't doing it by themselves; they knew they had someone covering their back."
The Blues now have a couple weeks off before traveling to face Sky Blue FC on June 11th.