In the two previous seasons, FC Kansas City dominated. Since the NWSL started, the Blues have been the only team to make it to the playoffs every season until this year. In the offseason, the Blues lost two forwards in Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez due to preganacy and midfielder Lauren Holiday to retirement. With a solid draft class and the return of Canadian Desiree Scott, this team should have stayed at the top like they were in previous seasons, but finishing troubles and breakdowns in the midfield were not helpful. A lot of young players were vital to the team this year and 2016 shows that there is plenty of room for improvement for 2017.
A rocky start that stayed rocky
Starting this season, two-time champions looked to get their third championship in a row. With veterans Nicole Barnhart and Becky Sauerbrunn returning to the defensive end of the field and the addition of New Zealand international Katie Bowen in the backline, the defense looked like it would be one of the best in the league. Evidently, the team just could not come back or finish a game.
With the many losses this season, the biggest one had to be the first Boston Breakers game, the sixth match of the season. The last three seasons the Breakers had been one of the worst in the league, finishing last or close to it in the previous three seasons. Both teams were looking for their first win of the season and the lone goal of the match came off of a set piece and a Whitney Engen header. The Breakers had five losses coming into the match and many of their losses throughout the season had been shutouts or by two goals or more. The early season loss to one of the lower ranked teams foreshadowed what the 2016 season would look like for the Blues.
The lone comeback
The season was not all bad as many of the younger players had breakout years and showed what they could do for this team. While their 3-2 victory against the Chicago Red Stars was a highlight of the season, one of the best victories came a few days early against Sky Blue FC when the Blues came back from a 1-0 deficit to eventually win 2-1. This marked the first comeback victory in franchise history thanks to Yael Averbuch’s fourth free kick goal of the season late in the game. This was one of few games where the Blues showed that they could finish their shots and complete a game. It showed the potential of what this team could be this next season. The Blues may not have had a strong season, but the end showed the potential of what we could see in the 2017 season.
Despite the scoreline of most of the games, the brick wall in the goal has to be this season’s MVP. Barnhart had an outstanding season, leading the league in saves and played every minute of every game this entire season. Barnhart also tied for first with six shutouts and a 1.0 goal against average. Coming in a close second for MVP would be Shea Groom who had eight goals this season. She took nearly 50 shots all season with over half of those shots being on goal. The performance in her second year in the league showed potential as a goal scorer in the upcoming season.
Room for improvement
This season was not one for the record books for FCKC, but it showed that there is still potential to get that third championship in the coming season. For the majority of the season, the Blues were not able to connect and finish goals. They didn’t find their first win until the seventh game of the season. Even with the issues, there were many places that showed room for improvement. The Blues, like most teams this season, were without many of their national team players, but that wasn’t completely terrible as many of the other players got a turn to show their skills. Groom had a chance to show her ability as a goal scorer and Mandy Laddish proved her worth as she was given a new contract through 2018. These young players, including Bowen, have a chance to give the Blues a top finish once again.
What’s to come?
The biggest plusses about the 2017 season will be the return of Leroux and Rodriguez to the attacking third. As of right now both are expected to join the team in 2017 and it could help with finishing, especially since Rodriguez was one of the leading scorers in her previous seasons with the Blues. Leroux has yet to play with FCKC, but her addition will add power and persistence to the attack. 2017 could see the Blues’ return to power. With no international tournaments next year, all players will be available for the season, giving them the full force of their team. They have the players and potential to be great, now they just have to show it. The Blues could go back to the top in 2017 as their quest for three championships continues.