NWSL Roundup: FC Kansas City has the look of a real title contender

Veronica Perez, Kendall Johnson

By MIKE McCALL

The opening weekend of the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season is in the books, with draws galore and a surprising result involving an expected title contender.

Three of the four matches ended in a deadlock, with the Boston Breakers earning a point via a stoppage-time equalizer and Sky Blue FC pulling the lone victory of the week with an upset of the Western NY Flash.

Here’s a look at the action from Week 1, followed by our NWSL power poll:

FC Kansas City 1-1 Portland Thorns FC

Well, the Thorns won’t be going 22-0-0 this season, as an early goal gave FC Kansas City a leg up and a result that should solidify their outlook as a title contender.  A botched clearance in the 3rd minute left the ball for Kansas City’s Renae Cuellar, who found the net for the first goal in league history and provided a dream start for the over-capacity crowd of 6,784 at Shawnee Mission District Stadium. Portland equalized in the 67th, when Canadian captain Christine Sinclair put away a penalty kick won by Danielle Foxhoven.
(KC: 0-0-1, 1 pt; POR: 0-0-1, 1 pt)

Chicago Red Stars 1-1 Seattle Reign

The visiting Reign jumped out to a quick lead via a 10th minute header by Christine Nairn, but the Red Stars showed there is some life in their attack with an opportunistic goal nine minutes later. Seattle keeper Michelle Betos put in an impressive performance filling in for the injured Hope Solo, but a misplayed clearance set off the sequence that led to the equalizer. Top draft pick Zakiya Bywaters picked off Betos’ pass, then found Ella Masar, who lofted a pass that Lori Chalupny volleyed home.
(CHI: 0-0-1, 1 pt; SEA: 0-0-1, 1 pt)

Sky Blue FC 1-0 Western NY Flash

The trophy-laden Flash did not get off to the kind of start they’d envisioned, as a 42nd-minute own goal made the difference. Western NY had its chances to get even, but Adriana had a penalty saved, and Abby Wambach saw her chip hit the crossbar and had an excellent chance to tie the game in the final minute when she latched onto a loose ball, but she fired high on what proved to be the final opportunity to rescue a point. After holding on, Sky Blue FC is all alone at the top of the league table.
(SBFC: 1-0-0, 3 pts; WNY: 0-1-0, 0 pts)

Boston Breakers 1-1 Washington Spirit

The Spirit’s oft-questioned attack found the first goal, but a stoppage-time slip-up from their vaunted defense cost the D.C. side two points in Boston. Rookie Tiffany McCarty put Washington on the board with a header in the 15th minute, and the Spirit’s back line led by Ali Krieger and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris kept the Breakers quiet until the 91st, when U.S. national teamer Sydney Leroux took off down the left side and placed one into the side netting. It was a fitting result given that the teams were even on shots on goal (seven), saves (six), and corners (two).
(BOS: 0-0-1, 1 pt; WASH: 0-0-1, 1 pt)

POWER RANKINGS

Here’s how they stand after Week 1:

1. Portland Thorns FC (0-0-1, 1 pt) – Not the best of starts, but a draw on the road against a worthy opponent isn’t a disaster. Besides, with Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair up top, this is still the team to beat.

2. FC Kansas City (0-0-1, 1 pt) – A hard-fought draw with the title favorites in front of a big home crowd? What’s not to like?

3. Sky Blue FC (1-0-0, 3 pts) – By virtue of the result, it’s unfair to put Sky Blue FC any lower than this. They may have caught a few breaks, but a win over the Flash is an impressive way to begin the season.

4. Washington Spirit (0-0-1, 1 pt) – After giving up a stoppage-time equalizer, the Spirit were the next closest team to a win. It bodes well that the young attack produced a goal, albeit against a shaky Boston defense.

5. Boston Breakers (0-0-1, 1 pt) – The Breakers will be hoping that breakaway Sydney Leroux goals are a common occurrence. If they are, Boston might be able to cover for a thin back line.

6. Seattle Reign (0-0-1, 1 pt) – Seattle just needs to get through the opening part of the season. Once goalkeeper Hope Solo and midfielder Megan Rapinoe are on board, watch out.

7. Chicago Red Stars (0-0-1, 1 pt) – This middle pack is really an interchangeable group for now, and it’s a positive to see No. 1 draft pick Zakiya Bywaters contribute on the franchise’s first goal.

8. Western NY Flash (0-1-0, 0 pts) – They lost, and thus, they must be last. But don’t expect to see them down here for long — and don’t expect Abby Wambach to make a habit of missing late chances like she did Sunday.

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21 Responses to NWSL Roundup: FC Kansas City has the look of a real title contender

  1. Nikozolo says:

    Couldn’t find any of these games on tv which is a shame. Maybe I accidentally scrolled over them in an effort to make sure I knew when the fa cup games and Tyne-Wear derby were being recorded. I actually wish some of these games were partnered with MLS games so I could go see a double header or two.

  2. Nico C. says:

    Reading everywhere that Sinclair and Morgan make a superb pairing. Not sure if they worked together before, but absolutely brilliant idea.

  3. Shane says:

    Is Marta on one of these teams?

    • RB says:

      Nope: focus is on North American players, with salaries of some national team members of the US, Canada & Mexico being paid by their respective federations, rather than on paying for other big-name players from elsewhere.

    • Weston John says:

      Marta is playing in Sweden for Tyreso with Christen Press.

  4. Al17 says:

    Not sure how one could rank teams in a league that just started even if it’s based mainly on paper.
    I saw 2 matches this weekend and if the rest of the season is akin to what I saw then this will be a fun league to watch and at no clear cut favorite. Ashame the league doesn’t have a National TV contract but hey alot of good things have started on YouTube. Make it a point to watch this league. Quality Football awaits.

  5. Vic says:

    Which teams play in the same area or stadium as MLS teams? I’m concerned about them taking attendance away from MLS.

    • Joe+G says:

      Other than Portland, which sold 7k season tickets and will get 14k at their opening match, the average attendance will be between 2-5k. If that hurts an MLS team, they are already in trouble.

    • RK says:

      Really?

    • kevin says:

      womens teams will not have home matches the same weekend as their mls counterpart.

    • JB says:

      Sporting KC’s supporters came out to the game to support FCKC. I think games were intentionally scheduled to not coincide with MLS games.

      Portland is the only team that shares a stadium with MLS and thus has the largest stadium. WNY and KC are the only other teams that can come close. If they sell over capacity, they will near 14K and 7K, respectively.

  6. CubesCompanion says:

    Hey Ives. About time to add NWSL to your site’s drop down navigation don’t ya think? I cant even find recent NWSL articles under the Womens Professional Soccer link.

  7. kevin says:

    How could you put Portland ahead of KC? I was at the game, along with 6,700 other people that watched KC outplay Portland at every spot on the field… For a title contender Portland looked week…

    • stephanie says:

      I agree! i was one of those 6700 at the game and FCKC outplayed Portland the entire game! Just because they have Sinclair and AM doesn’t mean they should be number one. Mewis had an amazing game!

      • JB says:

        When Tymrak subbed in, I thought she looked even better than Mewis. Mewis had several poorly placed passes and clearances. My mom kept saying “that girl’s not very good” – referring to Mewis. I had to tell her that we were lucky to get her in the draft and that she’s actually on the USWNT.

        I’ve heard others say she did great in the game, but I don’t think she performed to her ability at all. There were several obvious mistakes.

      • Paul Mcnally says:

        Agree Stephanie. been coaching in the KC area for 40 years, have seen many college level and college bound players and Mewis is a breath of fresh air as part of the young up and coming group of young women.

    • JB says:

      I agree. I think Portland got lucky with the PK. Not lucky that Sinclair scored, but lucky to get the PK call. Without they surely would have lost to KC. I think that places KC squarely in the top spot for this week.

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