It has been 1,305 days since Kansas City has had a professional women’s home soccer game. The Dash were FCKC’s final opponent at home, so it’s fitting the Dash will be their first opponent at home under the new KC NWSL name. KC is coming off a decent showing in Chicago, where they were able to get a point on the road with one of the most bizarre Amy Rodriguez goals ever scored. A goal is a goal though, and Rodriguez certainly earned it. Both teams have yet to find a win in this Challenge Cup, and both hope to find that first win tonight. Here are three things to watch.
While Shea Groom has strong Texas roots, her ties to Kansas City are even stronger. Groom is a Missouri native and grew up in the KC area. She was even coached by KC head coach Huw Williams as a youth player. Groom spent her first three NWSL seasons playing for FCKC and won a title there her rookie season, so this game will likely feel like a homecoming for her. While Huw Williams knows her well, do not expect that to give KC NWSL an edge according to Groom. She claims to have a few tricks up her sleeve, some of which we will hopefully see tonight.
Groom isn’t the only player on this Dash squad with strong ties to KC. Haley Hanson also grew up nearby and is a known Chiefs fan, a team who have a certain player’s fiancé as part of the ownership group. Kristie Mewis also spent her rookie season with FCKC playing for then unknown Vlatko Andonovski. For Mewis in particular, this game on top of her recent national team resurgence must feel like an addition to the full circle journey she is currently living.
This will be the first game with all the international players back from their national teams. The Dash are returning six very high-quality players: co-captains Rachel Daly and Jane Campbell, Kristie Mewis, Nichelle Prince, Sophie Schmidt, and Allysha Chapman. All six are likely starters, especially if head coach James Clarkson is viewing this game as a “win now” scenario.
While the Dash defense held it down and allowed zero goals over two games, the offense struggled consistently without the star power of Daly, Prince, and Mewis. The team is likely eager to score, and those three are just the players to push for that elusive first goal. Expect to see at least one of them on the scoresheet tonight if we see an orange goal.
Challenge Cup Woes
By the nature of this Challenge Cup run, only two teams make it to the finals, and that is entirely based on group standing. With Portland coming home with a solid win against OL Reign last week, they have already clinched the final spot in the West division, leaving the Dash mathematically eliminated before they even play a third game. While this is a frustrating result that in some ways feels out of the team’s control, scoring a goal or two likely would have kept them in contention.
All eyes now turn to what Clarkson’s strategy for the remaining two games will be. Clarkson could use them as an opportunity to continue to give depth players experience. However, knowing Clarkson’s history and the team mentality of having a chip on their shoulder, it is more likely that Clarkson will try to win out their final two games using his best XI.