Skip to content

FC Kansas City, Portland Thorns stalemate rings in NWSL

Apr 14, 2013, 1:41 AM EST

Thorns FC Kansas City Soccer AP

It only took three minutes for the new National Women’s Soccer League to find its first goal scorer, with FC Kansas City’s Renae Cueller beating Karina LeBlanc in the third minute of Saturday’s opener. For over an hour, the lead held, but when a controversial whistle gave Thorns captain Christine Sinclair an opportunity from the spot, Portland had the chance they needed to secure a 1-1 draw in front of 6,784 at Shawnee Mission District Stadium in Overland Park, Kan.

It was an strong start for a league that’s hoping the third time’s a charm for women’s professional soccer. Yes, the match was played on turf at a high school venue, and those people who waded through the choppy internet stream the NWSL offered on its YouTube channel saw high school football lines serve as a perpetual reminder of the league’s modest beginnings, but fans were also privy to a quality of play that WUSA and WPS — the two previous professional leagues — would have been hard pressed to match. While the talent in midfield for both teams meant that quality often cancelled out, long time fans of the women’s game could close their browser windows happy. The NWSL looks promising.

That promise started with Cuellar’s goal, a left-footed finish from 16 yards out that began 20 minutes of control for the hosts. The stretch gave NWSL fans every reason to believe a deep FCKC squad can compete with a star-laden Thorns team that’s been singled out as the league favorites.

Though play started to even out mid-way through the first half, the two sitting midfielders in Vlatko Andonovski’s 4-2-3-1 variant continued cutting off Portland’s access to their most dangerous weapons: Sinclair and strike partner Alex Morgan. A talent Thorns midfield was neutered by Desiree Scott and Jen Buczowski’s two-woman shield, the fast turf, and their own inability to effectively move the ball. Morgan, the league’s biggest star, was taken out of the game. Portland may have the most talented team in the league, but going into halftime, there was little doubt they’d been outplayed.

Why Thorns FC were able to recover in the second half is open to interpretation. Form Portland’s point of view, an increase in intensity, particularly with their forwards pressing Kansas City’s defenders, helped sway the game. But that may only tell part of the story. As the match bled on FCKC lost the abandon with which they were throwing attackers at Portland’s back line. Second half questions of the Thorns’ defense often left Cuellar isolated. The rest of her team played too reverential, and by the hour mark, Portland was convincingly controlling play.

It still took a beneficial whistle for the Thorns to pull even. In the 66th minute Danielle Foxhoven, recently brought on for Angie Kerr, appeared to be pulled down by Kansas City’s Lauren Sesselman near the edge of the six-yard box. It was the type of foul that may have looked more convincing to a trailing referee than a television audience, though Andonovski and defender Becky Sauerbrunn would later express their disagreement with the call. But those refrains had to wait until after the match, one left drawn after Sinclair buried the penalty kick.

For Portland, it was a fortuitous draw, though given how they’d come into the game, they very well could have created a goal over the match’s final 23 minutes. Their midfield was average, and a defense that was questioned during preseason was at fault for Kansas City’s only goal. Still, by the end of the match, Portland seemed to have evened the scales.

Kansas City played a big part in that. In the second half, they lacked the intensity that caused Portland to scramble over the first 45 minutes. Throwing Casey Loyd, Lauren Cheney, and Kristie Mewis forward to attack off of Cuellar in the first half, FCKC was able to constantly stress the Thorns with quick transitions out of their own end. That verve was absent over the last 45, allowing Portland to come back into the match.

Ultimately, this may be a result that suits both sides. Because of the quality of their team and the surface they play on, Kansas City may prove one of the more difficult teams to take points from on the road. And from FCKC’s point of view, they can take solace in earning a point from a full strength Thorns squad.

Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair spoke to OregonLive.com’s Geoffrey C. Arnold after Saturday’s match:

Latest Posts
  1. Sherwood says Villa’s win over West Brom is better than hitting the lottery

    Mar 4, 2015, 1:04 PM EST

    465175576 Getty Images

    “My missus said to me she had done the Euro lottery – a £54m jackpot – but I said I’d take three points all day.”

  2. 2015 MLS season preview: Sporting Kansas City

    Mar 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EST

    Sporting KC logo

    Re-tooled, re-loaded and deeper than ever before, Sporting KC look set for a huge 2015 campaign.

  3. WATCH: Premier League live online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 28

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:40 PM EST

    Live Extra

    How to watch all of Wednesday’s games live online or via the app.

  4. Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea’s Cup, Liverpool’s big win and Mix Diskerud guests

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:14 PM EST

    meninblazers

    Raising the Capital One Cuppity Cup Cup may just be the first title for the Blues.

  5. 2015 MLS season preview: FC Dallas

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    FC Dallas logo

    “El Profe” is back for year No. 2 in Dallas, and things are looking even better than last year’s successes.

  6. Samir Nasri: I would like to play in MLS

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:39 AM EST

    Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The Manchester City midfielder said he would like to follow in the steps of fellow-Frenchman Thierry Henry and one day play in America.

  7. Top 10 returning players in Major League Soccer for 2015

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

    Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, Jaime Penedo AP

    Who’s the best from a loaded pack of returnees?

  8. Tottenham hoping to hold Harry Kane out of Euro U21 Championship

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:43 AM EST

    Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Final Getty Images

    Spurs want their star striker to rest over the summer, rather than compete for the England U21 side.

  9. The Western Conference will continue to dominate MLS, and we all know it

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

    LA Galaxy, 2014 MLS Cup Getty Images

    West is best, and we all know it. 2015 will be no different that 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and so on.

  10. Wednesday’s Premier League Preview: Seven games in action-packed matchday

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:51 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-QPR Getty Images

    From league leaders to bottom feeders, points are up for grabs all across England today.

  11. Report: Manchester United will not keep Radamel Falcao after this season

    Mar 4, 2015, 8:29 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-BURNLEY Getty Images

    With his loan deal up at the end of the season, reports state Radamel Falcao will not return to Manchester next year.

  12. Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Chelsea

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:50 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-WEST HAM Getty Images

    The Hammers are winless in their last five Premier League games and face a Chelsea side coming off their first trophy of the season.

  13. An open letter as Major League Soccer teeters on the brink of a work stoppage

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:26 PM EST

    MLS ALL-STAR GAME COMING BACK TO DENVER Getty Images

    We want to watch games this weekend. We’re not interested in the rationale. Find a way to get us your product.

  14. WATCH: Incredible 60-yard pass leads Montreal ouster of Pachuca in CONCACAF Champions League

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:05 PM EST

    @EtienneLyon @EtienneLyon

    Montreal has ensured that Major League Soccer will have at least one semifinalist in this season’s CONCACAF Champions League after a year out of the final four,

  15. Making the case for the Eastern Conference as a better option

    Mar 3, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    Joze Altidore AP

    Oh MLS: What fun is there in following the narrative?

  16. I Was There: Austin Gooners have their best singing voices ready for Everton

    Mar 3, 2015, 8:40 PM EST

    Austin Gooners

    If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or NBC Sports Soccer on Twitter on Facebook using the #IWasThere.”

  17. 2015 MLS season preview: Vancouver Whitecaps

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:47 PM EST

    vancouver_whitecaps

    Vancouver may be missing that huge, huge name but is solid top-to-bottom.

  18. 2015 MLS season preview: Colorado Rapids

    Mar 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Colorado Rapids logo

    It could be a dark year in Commerce City, but don’t forget that this was a promising young team that floundered last year.

  19. VIDEO: Tim Sherwood thinks Villa found turning point in dramatic 2-1 win

    Mar 3, 2015, 6:47 PM EST

    Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    The brash Englishman is happy to call the win a turning point for his club, which moves out of the relegation zone for the time being.

  20. Tuesday’s Premier League roundup: Saints, Villa win; Hull, Sunderland draw (video)

    Mar 3, 2015, 6:28 PM EST

    Videos, recaps, analysis and more from the three PL games during Week 28 on Tuesday.