Thorns FC Opponent Dossier: FC Kansas City - June 30, 2013

Thorns FC return to Kansas City where they faced FCKC in first NWSL game of 2013

FC Kansas City

Photo Credit: 
(USA Today Sports Images)

The Portland Thorns look to get back to winning ways as they take on FC Kansas City on Sunday (1:10pm PT, webstream at www.portlandthornsfc.com). Find out all of the information you need to know on the opposition.

TACTICAL VIEW

What can the Thorns expect?
Whether they are set up in a 4-4-2 formation or a 3-4-3 system, Kansas plays the same way: move the ball through midfield and try to put the opposition under pressure. They are a team that believes in taking advantage of every opportunity that falls their way, hence their eagerness to unload with shots from distance and to constantly look to slide passes through to strikers making runs in behind the opposition’s backline.

Who are their main threats?
The one player who consistently stands out in the Kansas lineup is Lauren Cheney. As she breaks forward from midfield, the United States international uses her pace, balance and technique to set herself and teammates up for chances on goal. Not afraid to pull the trigger, Cheney has scored three goals in her last two outings, so, clearly, she is the main player that the Thorns must keep a track of.

Around Cheney, there are several difference-makers, like Desiree Scott, Sinead Farrelly, Erika Tymrak, and Kristen Mewis – all midfielders who can quickly turn defensive situations into attacking moves. Up front, the movement of Renae Cuellar can cause a lot of problems – as the Thorns discovered in the opening game of the season – and Melissa Henderson is starting to prove her worth with the more minutes that she gets.

Where are they most vulnerable?
The trick when playing against such an organized team like Kansas is to make them chase the game rather than control it. When they are suddenly put on the backfoot, trying to intercept passes, and keep an eye on some of the league’s top forwards, then their entire game-plan becomes redundant. So the key for the Thorns is exerting enough pressure early on to push Kansas back inside their own half and to keep possession of the ball for as long as possible.

Of course, Kansas City are going to get opportunities to counterattack, it is only natural with a team as talented as theirs, but when they do, then the Thorns must strike back. When breaking forward, Cindy Parlow Cone’s team can exploit the three Kansas defenders by dragging them wide and out of position – or by simply outnumbering them. It will require clever soccer to get in on goal, but that is what the Thorns do best.

KEY PERSONNEL

Head coach: Vlatko Andonovski
Originally from Macedonia, Andonovski made his name as coach in the United States, where he has been heavily involved in youth and indoor soccer. He has held director of coaching positions and used his experience of playing in Europe to compliment his coaching qualifications. Andonovski is assisted by Welsh coach Huw Williams.

Star Player: Becky Sauerbrunn
A regular in the United States women’s squad, this capable defender is someone who can be relied upon to make the kind of last-ditch tackle or vital interception that will keep her team in a game. A great organizer, she brings the best out in her teammates and is quick to react to situations, which is a trait that only top-class players really possess.

One To Watch: Sinead Farrelly
This hard-working midfielder is just as good defensively as she is when attacking, which makes her the perfect candidate to keep Kansas’ engine room ticking over. A stint in Cyprus with Apollon Limassol, where she starred in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, helped Farrelly improve her all-round game and she has been a stand-out performer in the NWSL so far.

FLASHBACK

What happened when the teams last met?
The Thorns edged FCKC in a hectic game with a 4-3 victory at JELD-WEN Field. Goals from Alex Morgan and Courtney Wetzel put the home team in front, then Lauren Cheney hit back with a penalty before Danielle Foxhoven made it 3-1. Cheney scored again and Tymrak also got on the scoresheet, but they came between a strike from Allie Long as the Thorns sealed the win.

What did the Thorns learn from that game?
Even though they conceded four goals, Kansas showed the type of character that should see them make the postseason playoffs. With quality in every position, they are a team that is not afraid to stand up to any team in the league. And that fighting spirit showed the Thorns that they won’t easily give up in a game and also have the personnel who can help them claw their way back into it.

Cheney was outstanding for Kansas in that game with two goals and eight shots altogether. The busy midfielder caused the Thorns a lot of problems with her probing runs and shots from distance, while Farrelly, Mewis and Scott provided able support and that midfield line gave Kansas a chance to snatch victory when they should have been out of the game.

What did the coaches have to say at the time?

Portland Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone
“I would prefer the score to be a little bit of a wider margin, but Kansas City is a tremendous team. They never say die, they fought to the end and scored some tremendous goals to put us under a ton of pressure.”

FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski
“Portland is a good team and they played well tonight. I think our team stepped up though and played hard all the way to the end. We need to take the good things from tonight and improve on the bad things.”

How has Kansas fared since then?
In the five games that they have played since losing at JELD-WEN Field, Kansas has recorded three victories, one tie, and lost to the Chicago Red Stars. With 12 games played, they trail the Thorns by six points in the overall standings with the same amount of goals scored (18) but with 13 goals conceded to the nine that the Thorns have let in.

Did You Know?
Kansas had a sold-out crowd of 6,784 at the Shawnee Mission District Stadium when hosting the Thorns in the first game of the NWSL season, which ended in a 1-1 tie.

Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandThornsFC.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.