NWSL Draft – What They Need – FC Kansas City

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In A Nutshell

Admittedly, the defending champs don’t need much. The priority will be on adding to a defense that lost key contributors last season and which will be without Becky Sauerbrunn for much of the season. There are a lot of gambles currently on that backline: hoping Amy LePeilbet can hold it together, that Kate Deines can be a full-time starter at center-back, and Rafaelle Souza can play full-back at this level. Adding a couple of blue chip defenders from the draft would certainly add some insurance.

Biggest Needs: RB, LB, CB, backup GK, CF

GK – (*Barnhart), *Keane

It seemed like Nicole Barnhart had fallen permanently out of favor with the USWNT after being ignored for a call up all throughout the end of 2014. But Barnhart was back for the first camp of 2015, meaning the defending champs again may be worrying about their goalkeeping situation come WWC time. While Barnhart may still yet be lost in the shuffle with Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris, you wonder if Jill Ellis could really overlook a keeper who has been as solid as Barnhart’s been for the entirety of the NWSL era. If she is overlooked, FCKC will again be strong all season in goal.

If Barnhart goes to Canada, that could be problematic for the defending champs. The club, all things considered, got a good bargain in picking up Sara Keane as an undrafted free agent last season. Keane proved a fine understudy in the short-term, but it remains to be seen if she’s a long-term solution at the position. In any even, if Barnhart goes, the club will need a third goalkeeper for cover.

DEF – *LePeilbet, *Robinson, *(Sauerbrunn), *Deines, *Souza

If there’s a clear weakness on the defending champs, it’s here. FC Kansas City’s defense took a while to start clicking last season, but once it did, it was almost impregnable down the stretch. Which makes the decision to break up the unit all the more surprising, with Kassey Kallman, who showed the potential of becoming one of the league’s best defenders, being moved to Boston for Heather O’Reilly. Add in the likely absence of Nikki Phillips on maternity leave, and suddenly you’ve got a lot of questions that will only be magnified when Becky Sauerbrunn departs for the WWC.

The only sure thing outside of Sauerbrunn when she’s with the club is Leigh Ann Robinson, whose ability to play on either flank may be a godsend. Robinson didn’t quite hit the heights of her tremendous 2013 season but remains one of the league’s best full-backs. Who partners her on the flank is a big question. The obvious candidate is Rafaelle Souza, listed as a defender on the club’s roster, and who will be happy for a fresh start after the horrors of Houston. She’s not proven at full-back at this level though, and the club will surely be looking for cover in the draft.

In the middle, the club traded for Kate Deines in the offseason, and the former Seattle player will be keen to prove her worth as a starter in the league. Deines’ partner when Sauerbrunn is away is the big question. Amy LePeilbet was re-signed but looked a spent force when used as a starter last season. Her best role is probably as a defensive midfield substitute to help close games out, but she may be needed on the backline playing heavy minutes nonetheless.

The pieces here are promising for the most part, but there’s no doubt the club will be making additions here before the season starts.

MF – *Buczkowski, (*Gorry), *(Holiday), *Laddish, *Richmond, *Silva, *Tymrak, (*O’Reilly), *Averbuch

What happens when you add a shiny new weapon to a group that already decimated foes en route to a title a season ago? We’re going to find out, as FC Kansas City traded for Heather O’Reilly to fill the club’s sole question mark in the midfield. O’Reilly can’t carry an offense by herself, but she is a fantastic secondary piece to an offense and could make this group nigh-unstoppable when everyone is here. With Lauren Holiday and Erika Tymrak joining O’Reilly in the attacking midfield band of the 4-2-3-1 supporting Amy Rodriguez, FCKC could bury opponents under a torrent of offense.

Whereas the club will have to worry about absences for the WWC in that attacking band, it won’t be so for the defensive band with the flourishing partnership of Jen Buczkowski and Jenna Richmond set to return. Buczkowski continues to be one of the game’s best defensive midfielders, while Richmond is a more connective piece who was one of the league’s best rookies last season. They, again, will be key to FCKC success.

There’s depth as well. Frances Silva could be in for a breakout season in the attack if she can grasp her opportunity when the USWNT players are gone. Katrina Gorry is a sparkplug that could offer the club something a little more attacking from deep when she’s not on international duty. Yael Averbuch was a figure of scorn for many Washington Spirit supporters last season but will be looking to rescue her career given a new start here. Mandy Laddish featured seldomly last season and may be in a fight for a roster spot.

This group is loaded on paper, and given the needs on defense, additions will probably be put on the backburner.

FW – *Bogus, *Hagen, *(Rodriguez)

Amy Rodriguez certainly made a statement to those wondering if she was past it after a season away from the game, spearheading the offense in devastating fashion. Her fortunes at international level have been much more muted, and she’ll want to kick the season off in style to firm up her chances of sticking on the WWC roster. The “1” in the 4-2-3-1 was crucial to FCKC’s title run last season, and more solid play from Rodriguez would certainly help odds of a repeat.

When she’s gone, the center forward duties are likely to fall to Sarah Hagen, who can’t be more of a different player than Rodriguez. A hulking target forward who dissects opponents in the air, Hagen looks like the heiress apparent to Abby Wambach in the USWNT. As for now, Hagen will be looking to take advantage of the opportunity to lead the line. When both are available, it’ll be interesting to see how the duo are used. The club flirted with both in the lineup at one time last season but was generally more effective with Hagen coming off the bench late.

Liz Bogus is the only other recognized forward option, though she may play out on the wing. Though defensive priorities may take precedent, another center forward for depth might be a wise investment.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by Chris Henderson.

2 thoughts on “NWSL Draft – What They Need – FC Kansas City

  1. VaFa51

    OK, now I have to disagree. I think the characterization of Sarah Hagen, above, as a “hulking target forward who dissects opponents in the air” is misleading and implies that she is valuable only as a “hammer” forward inside the six. Hagen actually is a pretty technical player who is comfortable with the ball just about anywhere on the pitch, with her back to goal or facing it — she just happens to be tall and strong. No doubt, she is most dangerous inside the 18, but she is not a one-dimensional forward.
    Thanks again for the overview.

    1. Chris Henderson Post author

      I don’t think she’s one-dimensional, but I do think she is almost unstoppable in the air, which is why I emphasized that point.


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