On a chilly spring afternoon in Columbia, MO, fans gathered for the first preseason exhibition game between two time NWSL champions, FC Kansas City, and the University of Missouri Tigers. The first half of the game was made up with players who will, presumably, be making the final roster.
The Starting XI
In goal, Nicole Barnhart made her first appearance for the 2017 season. Defense saw 2 veterans in Brittany Taylor and Becky Sauerbrunn, and 2 rookie draft picks in Christina Gibbons and Rashida Beal. The midfield had a lot of familiar faces from last season. Desiree Scott and Lo’eau LaBonta played in defensive-mid roles and Alexa Newfield and Katie Bowen played in holding-mid positions. Our forwards included Shea Groom, who seems to be in even better form than last year (where she had 8 goals on the season) and Sydney Leroux, who appeared for the first time since being brought in via trade in January 2016.
First Half Game Play
The first half was definitely dominated by the Blues, with an early goal in the 16th minute scored by Groom followed 5 minutes later with a goal from Leroux. Brittany Taylor shortly followed with a goal of her own off of a corner kick taken by Alexa Newfield. Barnie had a beautiful 1 vs. 1 save in the 41st minute that and the Blues quickly took the ball down the field for another Taylor goal in the 42nd minute. Katie Bowen ended the first half with a beautiful goal in the 44th minute.
The Second Half
The second half consisted of almost an entirely different group of players. The only overlap was Rasida Beal, who had been playing center back the first half, was moved into a left-wing position. Amy Rodriguez and Erika Tymrak were the sole veterans on this squad, but they seemed to be directing the run of play very well. There was a definite sense that these players were very fresh and just getting their feet wet in a professional style of play. There were moments of brilliance, such as in the 79th minute when Jenna Hellstrom passed the ball into Amy Rodriguez who was able to find the back of the net. Hellstrom was able to add a goal of her own in the 89th minute which brought us to the final score of 7-0.
While it is a little bit early to tell, there were some definite shining moments in the game. Christina Gibbons was all over the field making plays in the first half. Brittany Taylor was also having success at right-wing where she was able to score not just one, but two goals. It was good to see that Sydney and Amy both seem to be shaping up nicely after returning from their maternity leaves from last season. There are also some notable absences due to injury. Mandy Laddish, Yael Averbuch, Alex Arlitt and Becca Moros were all out. It will be interesting to see what happens when they're back to full health.
Only time will tell if FC Kansas City has what it takes to make it to their third championship game in 4 years, but so far they seem to be shaping up nicely. It will also be interesting to see how the remainder of the preseason plays out and which players will make the cut. The Blues will play their next preseason game at the University of Nebraska on April 1st, and we’ll have a better idea of how the team is coming together for the 2017 season!