FC Kansas City (7-4-2, 23 pts.) and the Portland Thorns (8-3-2, 26 pts.) battled at Verizon Wireless Field on Sunday in their third meeting of the season, and FCKC emerged victorious.
Once again the Blues came on strong early and dominated possession throughout the first half. FCKC never showed heavy legs during the match, their third in eight days, but looked rhythmic and confident, opening up the field of play on strings of sharp, crisp passes. Portland, by contrast, never built up steady control and earned their best goal-scoring opportunities on rare counterattacks.
Lauren Cheney became the NWSL’s leading scorer in the 10th minute, adding to her recent glut of goals with a perfectly placed shot from distance. FCKC defender Leigh Ann Robinson intercepted an errant Thorns pass and quickly crossed to a waiting Cheney in midfield. Portland keeper Karina LeBlanc came forward off her line just enough for Cheney’s tailing strike to arc over her outstretched arm, underneath the crossbar and into the netting.
“We worked a lot this week on containing their attacks and attacking quick as soon as we win the ball,” FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Cheney is a master of that.”
FCKC defender Leigh Ann Robinson earned her second assist of the match in the 71st minute when she found herself the recipient of another errant Thorns pass. Her cross clipped Portland’s Angie Kerr before finding teammate Merritt Mathias. Mathias chipped the ball around a scrambling LeBlanc and into the open net for her first goal of the season and the 2-0 lead.
Portland had little chance to get back in the match. Defender Marian Dougherty went down with a knee injury, but Portland’s early use of available subs prevented them from replacing her. Christine Sinclair put a nice header on goal late that FCKC’s Nicole Barnhart smothered, and the final whistle blew on an FCKC shutout. As many of the 4,774 fans in attendance waited to meet the players, the Thorns huddled on field for long after the match to regroup following FCKC’s resounding victory. The season series between the teams is now one win for each and one draw.
“Every win is a big win, but the closer we come to the end of the season, we realize how important every game is and how big every win is,” FCKC coach Andonovski said. “This win is a big confidence builder for us and shows that we can compete with every team in this league.”
The win pushes FCKC once again into 3rd place with 23 points, one point ahead of the WNY Flash, and the Thorns remain in 2nd with 26 points.
The Blues continue their frenetic match schedule this week. They first travel to Washington on Wednesday for a 7:30pm ET match against the Spirit before returning home on Sunday to face the Flash. Portland will host the Boston Breakers on Saturday at 7:30pm PT.