In what was billed as a matchup of league heavyweights, FC Kansas City and Portland Thorns entered tonight’s matchup looking to settle their season-long series and put their first step towards the playoffs. A win for either team would secure their spot in the post-season and a draw would see both teams qualify. This matchup has seen some of the most exciting games of the season so far. Tonight’s game, broadcast nationally on Fox Soccer Channel, might have topped them all.
The two teams at the top of the NWSL table played a fairly even game, with each team seeing spurts of possession dominance throughout the first half. FC Kansas City got on the board first when Leigh Ann Robinson sent a cross that squirted out to a wide open Lauren Holiday. At that range, Holiday does not disappoint and found the back of the net before Portland goalkeeper, Karina LeBlanc, had a chance to react.
The second half was another battle. Portland was determined to get themselves into the game while KC saw their playoff berth within reach. Portland equalized the game when Kansas City was unable to properly clear a set play in the 51st minute. Portland’s Rachel Buehler collected the missed clearance and her shot careened off the side of her foot to her teammate, Danielle Foxhoven. The Thorns forward was left open and was able to put her side on the board.
The tie was only temporary though as FC Kansas City answered four minutes later. The most dangerous midfield combination in the NWSL put their team back in the lead when Tymrak’s one touch pass with her back to the goal found Holiday driving into the Thorns’ penalty box. Her shot went under the outstretched arms of LeBlanc and trickled into the goal.
Kristie Mewis, whose versatility has been integral in making FC Kansas City the best defensive team in the NWSL, stepped up offensively in the 74th minute. “We did an awesome switch of the field to catch the other team on their heels. I hadn’t taken anyone on all game so I just went for it,” the rookie explains, “…I put it on my favorite foot and shot…it was really just a great build up.” Mewis scored her first professional goal on the biggest stage of the season to date. It ended up as the game-winner too. Alex Morgan, one of the finalists for FIFA’s award given to the best female soccer player in the world, was given just a bit too much open space in the 89th minute and used her left foot to sneak a shot to the far post just outside of the reach of Nicole Barnhart. The FC Kansas City defense stood tall throughout the remainder of the match, which included five minutes of additional time, to secure the 3-2 victory.
Although Portland scored two goals, goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was one of the best players on the field all night. She faced sixteen shots in the game, seven of them on goal, and made five saves. Her spectacular play frustrated the Portland forwards all night long. She saved three point-blank shots and directed her defense to the league’s longest undefeated streak (10 games) and the team’s longest winning streak (four games). By contrast, her counterpart for the Thorns faced four shots on goal, making only one save.
FC Kansas City retains the first spot in the NWSL table with the win. They also clinched a spot in the playoffs that begin on August 24th. They next travel to Boston to face the Breakers on August 10th at 5:00p.m. CT before returning home for the final regular season game on August 18th against the Chicago Red Stars at 3:10p.m.