FC Kansas City begins its quest for back-to-back championships on Sunday when the team hosts Sky Blue FC at Sporting Kansas City’s Sporting Park. The Blues moved to Swope Soccer Village (Sporting Kansas City’s training ground) this season after playing at the Verizon Wireless Field last season. As of now, the team’s home-opener is the only match scheduled to be played at Sporting Park.
The team’s 2015 final roster has just been announced and head coach Vlatko Andonovski has retained a large portion of the team’s spine. Having that familiarity between the players will be essential this summer with many players expected to be called to World Cup duty.
Heather O’Reilly – Veteran O’Reilly joins the Blues after spending the first two NWSL seasons with the Boston Breakers. In those two seasons, O’Reilly made 42 appearances for the team and scored 14 goals. Last season, O’Reilly was named to the NWSL Best XI for her nine goals and five assists. O’Reilly will be in familiar company, linking back up with fellow national teammates including Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez.
Yael Averbuch – The center midfielder spent last season with the Washington Spirit, where she scored one goal and had one assist in 22 games. Averbuch was initially a U.S. Soccer subsidized player, but was eventually dropped from the list and signed with FC Kansas City. With Lauren Holiday expected to miss a large chunk of the season due to the World Cup, Averbuch may find herself trying to fill a large void this summer.
Kassey Kallman – In October, Kallman was traded to the Boston Breakers along with teammate Morgan Marlborough in exchange for O’Reilly. Last season, the defender made 19 appearances for the Blues and helped lead the backline to nine shutouts.
Morgan Marlborough – Marlborough was also part of the trade to Boston in exchange for O’Reilly. The forward, who was primarily used as a late substitute, made 10 appearances for the club and scored two goals (both in 2-1 road losses for the Blues).
Merritt Mathias – Over two seasons, the midfielder made 42 appearances for the club but was traded to the Seattle Reign in November in exchange for Kate Deines (who recently decided to retire from professional soccer) and two 2015 draft picks.
Jenna Richmond – Richmond played a key role for the Blues last season, making 23 appearances. Drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft, Richmond tallied one goal and added four assists as a defensive midfielder last year. Her departure will leave KC shy on a defensive midfielder if Jen Buczkowski slots into the back during the World Cup.
Nikki Phillips – Phillips played in 25 matches, tied with Buczkowski for the team lead, during the Blues’ run to the championship match. She will miss the 2015 season for the defending champs while pregnant. With center back and iron woman Becky Sauerbrunn already missing a significant chunk of the season, the loss of Phillips leaves defenders in short supply in KC. It was a defense that allowed the third-fewest goals (32) last season.
Overview of Last Season:
FC Kansas City is known in the NWSL for its striking style of play. Andonovski has put together a solid team that is easily one of the most enjoyable to watch. Last season, the team finished the regular season in second place but ended up defeating the seemingly-unstoppable Seattle Reign in Seattle thanks to an Amy Rodriguez brace (with both assists coming from Lauren Holiday). Three players (Becky Sauerbrunn, Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez) were named to the NWSL Best XI, while Sauerbrunn also picked up Defender of the Year honors for the second consecutive year.
World Cup Impact:
The team will be missing many key players this season due to the World Cup. Fans can expect to miss Becky Sauerbrunn, Amy Rodriguez, Heather O’Reilly and Lauren Holiday (all of the United States) for a large portion of the season. Sauerbrunn, Rodriguez and Holiday were arguably the three best players last season, so Andonovski will certainly have many holes to fill this season if he wants to replicate the team’s success from last season.