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2017 NWSL Season Preview: FC Kansas City

The only Two Star team in the league looks to rebound and contend for another title

Barnhart has been one of the best in the league every year
Thad Bell

FC Kansas City comes into 2017 looking to rebound from their only down year. Coming off their second NWSL Championship in 2015 a wholesale change to the team occurred when four starters retired, one missed the season to give birth and her replacement ended up pregnant as well. With that much change, to even contend for a playoff spot would have been almost miraculous. The Blues did miss the playoffs for the first time but were showing promise at the end of the season and the team felt if it was not a shortened season they might have made the postseason.

Coming into 2017 the Blues have lost one starter in Heather O’Reilly (Arsenal) and the regular contributions of Frances Silva (Fox Sports) but have Amy Rodriguez returning and Sydney Leroux available to add some firepower. Combine them with Shea Groom and head coach Vlatko Andonovski has some serious attacking options again.

With veteran Nicole Barnhart in goal and U.S. and FCKC Captain Becky Sauerbrunn running the backline plus the addition of rookie Christina Gibbons the defense should be among the best as usual.

With new ownership and a blend of veterans and youth, the team feels optimistic. While it will be a challenge to piece together all of the options and bring the Blues back to being challengers for the title again but if anyone can do it, Andonovski can.

Key facts:

2016 Record: 7-5-8

2016 Playoffs: N/A Finished in 6th place and did not qualify

Key additions: Christina Gibbons, Amy Rodriguez, Sydney Leroux, Becca Moros

Key losses: Heather O’Reilly, Frances Silva

Projected starting XI (formation): 4-2-3-1 (or maybe a 4-4-2)

Major trophies won all-time: As the Blue Crew likes to chant, FC Kansas City is still the only two star team in the league. The 2014 and 2015 NWSL championships belong to FC Kansas City.

Thad Bell

What we think of our team: FC Kansas City fans think their team is the greatest, play the beautiful game the right way and are in love with Becky Sauerbrunn, the best center back in the world. They love the rest of the players as well and are fiercely defensive of their team.

What outsiders think of our team: FC Kansas City is that team that's really hard to score on because they have Becky Sauerbrunn, and also the team's entire strike force went on maternity leave at the same time. – anonymous writer from another site…

FC Kansas City’s Biggest Rival, and why: Not an easy answer. Chicago seems to always be a physical and chippy game but Seattle can as well. The fact that FCKC and Seattle have met in two NWSL finals, played a number of hard fought matches, the verbal sparring between the Blue crew and Hope Solo, and the mutual respect between Andonovski and Laura Harvey would probably make them the number one foe in the past.

Best social media follow: Sydney Leroux and family is an easy and obvious choice. Between twitter and Instagram Leroux keeps everyone watching but throw in husband Dom Dwyer ( twitter / IG ), her dog Boss and even baby Cassius and the first family of soccer are must follows. For a change of pace, Yael Averbuch is a great follow for soccer tips and training and Erika Tymrak for a little bit of everything.

Our season hinges on: Finding a play maker to connect all the attackers together. With no clear number 10 coming into the season much will depend on if someone steps up to that role or if a great defense, play maker by commitee and talented attackers can make up for it.

Why this year won’t be like last year: Last year the Blues were good defensively but struggled to score after losing so many key players to retirement and motherhood. With the return of Rodriguez and Leroux to action, Shea Groom will no longer be the only scoring threat. Gibbons will bring a level above her years to the team and the returning players all have had a year to gel and understand the Andonovski way.

Key player (s) (and why): Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux. Both will need to come back strong after having their children. For A-Rod she wants to prove she can rise back to the top a second time. Both of them will be needed to not only score but perhaps create a little more on their own than in the past.

Predicted finish in 2017 (place in standings):Third in the table would be a good spot for the Blues. Make the playoffs and they can go all the way again.

Wild prediction: FC Kansas City’s Shea Groom will be near the top of the scoring charts. With more strikers around, she will not be the only focus of the opponents and her quick and feisty style will notch a number of goals.

Wild prediction part 2: Christina (just call me Gibby) Gibbons will play well enough to earn senior national team call ups.

Stay tuned for a roster breakdown and update on all the league activity...