Something new: Mallory Pugh became the first U.S. teenager in the NWSL and, as far as I know, the first U.S. teenager in a pro women’s soccer league.
Something old: The Spirit couldn’t turn their chances into a goal, losing 1-0 for the third time in four home games.
In most respects, though, both teams exceeded my expectations. Maybe I’m just getting old and pessimistic. But the Spirit’s oft-sputtering offense created some chances even without Tori Huster in the midfield to drive them forward. The defense had nowhere to go but up after conceding six in Seattle, but they went beyond “avoiding catastrophe” to “limiting chances.” FCKC’s defense is simply superb, and the offense capitalized on its one good chance.
“We’ve been working all week on getting in the box and finding space,” Newfield said. “I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Syd claims she flicked it over to me on purpose.”
When told Opta had ruled later in the game that Leroux would get an assist on the play, Newfield quipped, “They must have heard her talking at halftime then.”
The Spirit had a few good chances, but two weeks after her offensive explosion against Sky Blue, Francisca Ordega’s touch deserted her. Cheyna Williams got into good spots but shot straight at Nicole Barnhart multiple times. The best chances were from Kristie Mewis — the first after Arielle Ship’s slick move on the left …
… the second on a free kick …
… and another on a free kick.
Unfortunately for Mewis and the Spirit, Becky Sauerbrunn is apparently psychic and had positioned herself right where that ball was going to go.
“When (Nicole Barnhart) was setting the wall, I asked, ‘Do you want me to come back?'” Sauerbrunn said. “She said yeah. Literally, I was trucking back, and Kristie Mewis nailed it off my chest.”
Was that how you drew it up, Vlatko Andonovski?
“I’m gonna say that I was happy with the restarts.”
First time I’ve talked with the FCKC coach after a win. He’s amusing.
And KC needed this. They have playoff potential as usual, but five points in five games won’t cut it.
Andonovski insists that they’re not just going Route 1 to Leroux.
“We were changing it as the game was going on. Sometimes we were a little more possession-oriented and looking for those gaps and opportunities, and sometimes we were direct. We were going to take what they give us. When they put pressure on us and overload numbers in our defensive third, we had to go over the top and find the runners. Then there were times they were sitting a little bit lower, and we started building it from the back.”
Besides, direct play gets a bad rap at times. If someone can whack a 50-yard diagonal ball that sends Leroux into a foot race against a terrified defender, that’s worth trying a few times a game, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, the Spirit’s ambitions are going to be a bit lower this season. Before the rash of injuries, they were a long shot to make the playoffs for a fourth straight year. Now? Nearly impossible.
But tonight’s game gave a few glimpses of potential. Cheyna Williams just seems to be a touch or two away from having that breakout second season that so many NWSL attackers have. When healthy, Mewis and Huster are a powerful midfield engine.
And that new kid out on the left wing in the second half looked pretty good, too. I wonder if Jill Ellis, who was sitting right in front of the pressbox, happened to catch her name.