Sunday, August 31, 2014

FC Kansas City Win NWSL Championship

I'm one of those people that hasn't fully embraced the whole "Soccer Capital of America" that Sporting Kansas City started last season around the all star game. After today I may be starting to believe in it. At this time, KC hold the championships of all three leagues that they have teams competing in. With FC Kansas City's 2-1 win over the Seattle Reign in the NWSL Championship today, Kansas City now is home to the current holders of MLS Cup (Sporting KC), the NWSL Championship (FC Kansas City), and the indoor league previously known as the MISL (Missouri Comets). A big accomplishment for a city that was drawing flies for their one professional soccer team only a few years ago.

It wasn't easy for FCKC today though. The home side, Reign, came out with a good high press early in the game, pinning the Blues deep in their own end. After enduring the early pressure though, the Blues started to create chances of their own. In the 20th minute after the Reign failed to clear the ball, Jenna Richmond had a shot from the top of the box that hit the outside of the post and bounced out of play. Two minutes later, FCKC went on top. Lauren Holiday led a break, running at a number of Seattle defenders before playing the ball through for Amy Rodriguez who made a diagonal run to stay on side. Rodriguez controlled the ball into the box, looked up as Hope Solo came up and calmly shot the ball over her and into the net giving FCKC the 1-0 lead. Seattle almost responded immediately but Nicole Barnhart made a nice kick save at the near post on Kim Little. Seattle picked up the pressure and shortly after, Little set up Naho Kawasumi on a platter with a nice cross, but Kawasumi headed the ball wide from six yards out. KC had chances of their own, in the 36th a cross into the box was almost turned in by Rodriguez at the near post, but was just wide. 

Early in the second half, the Reign had another good opportunity as Megan Rapinoe lofted a cross to the back post where Kawasumi put it on goal, but right into the arms of Barnhart. The pressure continued with Little testing Barnhart with a free kick from the top of the box, but right at the US national team keeper as she held onto the shot. Minutes later FCKC made the Reign pay for the lack of finishing. Holiday again was the architect, receiving the ball out wide and then dribbling down field towards goal. She got into the box, splitting two more Seattle defenders before laying a ball back into the path of Rodriguez who fired into the net to double KC's advantage. A fantastic run by Holiday to set up the goal. With the two goal lead, KC sat back just a little bit, and the Reign took advantage, creating a number of opportunities, but not able to find the net. Rapinoe hit the elbow of the goal in the 84th minute off a deflected shot, but the ball went out for a corner. Late on the Blues had trouble finding possession, instead resorting to booting the ball down field away from danger each time they were able to. In the 87th the Reign finally found the back of the net, making things interesting. A corner was headed off the cross bar by substitute, Mariah Nogueira, the rebound came back to her where she appeared to be fouled by KC's Sarah Hagen. No call was made, eventually the ball fell to Rapinoe at the top of the box. Seattle continued to throw numbers forward late on, but were unable to find another goal and FCKC walked out of Seattle with the championship, the club's first in their second season of existence. Holiday was named the MVP of the Championship for her two assists, and it's hard to argue with, she showed the form that won her the league's MVP award last year and did a marvelous job setting up both of Rodriguez's goals.

And now this tifo by the Blue Crew from earlier this season seems prophetic.

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