Skip to content

FC Kansas City, Portland Thorns stalemate rings in NWSL

Apr 14, 2013, 1:41 AM EDT

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. MLS playoff update: How does postseason picture look right now?

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:13 AM EDT

    mauro-diaz-10-of-fc-dallas Getty Images

    After FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls defeated their opponents in the first two games of the MLS playoffs, the postseason picture exists in its beginning stages.

  2. Robbie Keane, regardless of playoffs, will play in US-Ireland match overseas

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Galaxy  v Chivas USA Getty Images

    Robbie Keane stands ready to play for his international side right after the LA Galaxy’s playoff contests vs. Real Salt Lake.

  3. WATCH: Men in Blazers preview Round 10

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT

    Can United bounce back from 'that' defeat at Leicester? Getty Images

    Men in Blazers preview Round 10, most notably the Manchester derby.

  4. Fernando Torres on time at Chelsea: ‘I needed to feel important’

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:36 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-CHELSEA-STEAUA BUCHAREST

    Fernando Torres, expanding on his decision to leave Chelsea on loan, says he wanted to “feel important.”

  5. Sam Allardyce delighted Newcastle hasn’t axed Pardew

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT

    Alan+Pardew+Sam+Allardyce+VFGweDnwiSUm Getty Images

    West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is happy for the recent triumphs of criticized Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

  6. Wayne Rooney cleared to play in Manchester derby

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    Will United surge towards the top four with 14 games to go? AP

    Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney will be available in the upcoming Manchester derby following his three-match suspension.

  7. Celtic midfielder Aleksandar Tonev faces seven-game ban over racism

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT

    Aleksandar-Tonev-529522 Getty Images

    Action taken against alleged racist actions in the Scottish Premiership.

  8. Daniel Sturridge links injury problems to his ‘Carribean vibes’

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Manchester City Liverpool Soccer AP

    Sturridge on injury woes: “Maybe it’s my body type, maybe it’s hereditary.”

  9. Fabio Capello attempted to ink Messi on loan at Juventus

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    A young Messi was eyed by Juventus in 2005, says Russia manager Frank Capello.

  10. Twitter reacts to Los Angeles FC’s entry into Major League Soccer

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    B1NhSSECIAIZL5p

    How has the soccer world (via Twitter) responded to the news? With a mixture of interest and humor.

  11. Los Angeles officially given new MLS team; Magic Johnson, Vincent Tan among investors

    Oct 30, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    @MLS @MLS

    In what will be called “Los Angeles Football Club” as it goes through its branding, MLS has announced that L.A. has officially been awarded another team.

  12. PST Extra: Getting you ready for The Manchester Derby (video)

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Mike Prindiville and Joe Prince-Wright join Jenna Corrado to discuss the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.

  13. Alan Pardew: The Premier League’s antihero

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:38 PM EDT

    Pardew Getty Images

    Like Steve McQueen in “Papillon,” only nattily-attired, the Newcastle United manager just seems to be constantly yelling out, “Hey… I’m still here.”

  14. Another Premier League club linked with US investor, ex-MLB owner

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

    Swansea

    He’s being linked with Swansea City, though club chairman Huw Jenkins said while the club is entertaining investors, any specific names would be “pure speculation.”

  15. European clubs propose later domestic Cup finals, April-May World Cup in 2022

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Qatar 2022

    The proposed moves would leave only 10 days prep time before the World Cup began, and would also alter the UEFA Champions League schedule.

  16. Zombie Luis Suarez terrifies London (Yes, this video is a Halloween prank)

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:40 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 9.52.50 AM

    What do you think? Mean-spirited to the public or just a decent Candid Camera-style prank?

  17. Emotional Whitecaps react to controversial PK ouster: “It was such a soft call.”

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT

    Matias Laba, Kendall Waston,  Michel AP

    “I’ve got 30 and 34-year-olds in my locker room in tears because we feel it’s been unfairly taken away from us,” said coach Carl Robinson.

  18. Rumors know no window: Liverpool after Reus, Manchester United wants Draxler

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:02 AM EDT

    FC St. Pauli v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup Getty Images

    And it’s claimed that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will sign a veteran back from Juventus, bucking his trends of signing attackers and youth.

Featured video

PST Extra: The Manchester derby