The Unused Sub: August In Kansas Is A Hot Seat?

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Kelley Piper

Hi.

UNPOPULAR… BUT SURELY A PROVOCATIVE OPINION
Most of the time I look past whenever people are playing the occasional hashtag game on Twitter. However taking part in #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion, our very own fearless leader RJ Allen tweeted something that sure was provocative.

Full disclosure, what I am about to say here is based on limited knowledge about the team as in I don’t have day-to-day access/insights to them, what their fans are saying, etc. And while their biggest victories came at the expense of the team I am a fan of, I am very much a fan of Vlatko Andonovski. That said …

I disagree with the idea Andonovski should be dismissed after this season, but I sure see why RJ thinks he should be. And likely others are thinking the same thing but don’t want to admit to it. It has been a problem for them to find a solid goal scorer not named Amy Rodriguez. Unfortunately, the cruel bastards that are the Soccer Gods deprived us (and them) of her, and now FCKC can’t score for the life of them. You might be saying: well, it’s on the coach to adjust his plan to handle the situation dealt, but it’s really easier said than done.

Look at the Seattle Reign FC last year. Simply put, teams figured out how to play against Seattle. And it took Laura Harvey and the squad pretty much the entire season to come up with something new. In fact, they’re still in the midst of that process. The 2017 NWSL has no room for error and will not hesitate to punish a team that’s still looking to make adjustment. For Kansas City, the strike force going into the year looked good. But once Rodriguez went down, it’s been rough going. Sydney Leroux’s successful comeback from 2016 was reliant on Amy Rodriguez doing her thing. Can’t count on Shea Groom, when she is being chief instigator more than the chief creator. And Brittany Ratcliffe and Maegan Kelly are fine players, but they’re still wet behind the ears as far as getting comfortable with the pace of the NWSL. Kelly played two seasons overseas after being drafted by KC in 2014 and Ratcliffe is only in her second season as a pro.

I remember when FCKC were up here in Seattle a couple months ago. It was the game where Reign defender Lauren Barnes was issued the straight red four minutes in. Kansas City should have won that match, being up a player the whole game. But they couldn’t get it done. After the game, Andonovski said that it was just too risky to go all in on Seattle, even with the player advantage, knowing how tough they are at Memorial Stadium. No one is going to dispute that, given Andonovski’s prestige in the league.

But even without a full assault, they had plenty of chances. They just couldn’t do anything with them. Largely because, of all things, they kept sending crosses into the box hoping, apparently, that Leroux had suddenly become a target forward who could get a head on the ball. But if Leroux was ever that player, she sure isn’t now. And there was no way Shea Groom was going to bail her out when she basically had her right arm in a 90-degree angle all match. A friend post-match was wondering the same thing: “Why are they sending crosses into the box like Syd can get to them? They blew this game.”

We know Kansas City has a solid defense, with Becky Sauerbrunn there and Nicole Barnhart in goal. They just can’t score, and it’s upsetting the whole balance of the team. Still, I don’t think it warrants Andonovski getting his walking papers at the end of the season. Maybe it’s a silly thing, but I think winning your league’s championship puts some credit in the bank, and it takes more than one lost season to squander it.  Yes, a playoff format means that the NWSL functions a bit like a Random Champion Generator, but still … winning two in a row is some feat.

In 2017 FCKC won’t be making the playoffs. Once the season is put to rest, we’ll all look back and wonder “what could have been?”  If Rodriguez didn’t tear her ACL and if the team could have built around her. Would Leroux have looked better in her more natural role? Would Groom have been able to play off the other two more easily?

Andonovski certainly won’t try to shift the blame. He’ll tell you that the bad results are his responsibility. But I think his resume is solid enough that he deserves some benefit of the doubt. Maybe there were some mistakes, and maybe they shouldn’t have relied so heavily on Rodriguez. Maybe they missed out on an international signing or a trade that could have turned the ship around earlier. But that’s all speculation. What we know from the record is the Vlatko put in an earnest effort, and sometimes things go wrong. A big injury to a key player can ruin a season. But he deserves a chance to show what he can do in the offseason.

So, while I don’t think Vlatko Andonovski should lose his job at the end of this season, the seat will definitely be hot come 2018. Not like the dead man walking situation of former Houston Dash head coach Randy Waldrum this season, but plenty of eyes will be on Andonovski to show that those championships were for real. For me, I think the key is to get a forward with a proven resume of goals at the club and international level to compliment Rodriguez. Get that done, and FC Kansas City is back in the mix come 2018. Imagine if Kansas City pulled a coup and got someone like Jodie Taylor fresh off her Golden Boot-winning campaign from the Euros.

Is it guaranteed that Andonovski will turn it around? Nope. And will he definitely get the chance? Maybe not. Perhaps the KC ownership will make a change. That would be a little unfair, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. He certainly wouldn’t be unemployed for long. And if it did happen, at least there would be some chaos in the game, which is only more fun for us media folks–from the fully established folks all the way to yokel bloggers like me.

What RJ tweeted probably is incredibly unpopular, and I disagreed with it, but I also understand why she thinks it. And disagreeing about contentious things is ultimately what this thing is all about, right?


WEEK 16 PREDICTIONS

The race for the playoffs is on.

Washington Spirit and Boston Breakers play to a DRAW.

  • Washington clowned Sky Blue last weekend. Orlando clowned Washington on Tuesday. Boston is rested but they’re still Boston. I still think Boston can jack up one of the teams hoping to get into the playoffs, but this weekend it’s going to be a meh match between these two.

Sky Blue FC and Orlando Pride play to a DRAW.

  • I think should there be a winner and a loser in this, yet I struggle to think which team could get the full 3 points. Orlando has momentum after taking care of Washington. At the same time, Sky Blue got humiliated by Washington last weekend and wants get that out of their system. If anyone does lose, their campaign is close to over, so there might be a lot of fear about getting that L and falling out of contention. So I’m going to be lame and say it will be a draw, with both teams taking the point and struggling on to the next battle.

Chicago Red Stars OVER Portland Thorns.

  • One Chicago player who wore the number 23 made mincemeat pie out of a Portland team so many years ago.  I think the current Chicago player wearing the number 23 will do much the same this time.

Houston Dash and FC Kansas City play to a DRAW.

  • This is a game that the Dash should win because KC is bad and can’t score to save themselves, yet they’ll somehow hang with Houston and the Dash will rue not getting the full points.

Seattle Reign FC OVER North Carolina Courage.

  • It won’t be a fireworks spectacle like the last Reign FC home match, but they’ll get the points to keep their playoff hopes alive. Memorial is still a fortress. It’s the road games that will make or break Seattle’s season.

Here’s this week’s music video break.

Song: “Adventure” | Artist: Cheat Codes

Image courtesy of Kelley Piper

2 thoughts on “The Unused Sub: August In Kansas Is A Hot Seat?

  1. I am not surprised about FCKC short-comings. I just thought it would be last year….From the beginning FCKC has been a “win now” team. which they did…the first 3 seasons. But did anyone really think Vlatko was THAT good? FCKC has either traded away (Mewis, Kallman) or not had a pick in the first round in the past 4 seasons (due to Lepeilbet/Leroux trades). That’s not a recipe for long-term success.

    Vlatko is an awesome coach, that was set-up favorable when the league began. I don’t know how, FCKC was better in 2016 than 2017 just comparing the rosters….I think they miss Laddish more than people realize….and I think they are missing the work-rate driven lone-forward of years past. Look Arod of 2014 – 2015 and Groom of 2016 weren’t perfect but at least they covered a lot of ground…pushed limits being off-side…and took a lot of shots. Leroux hasn’t done any of that. I know FCKC’s midfield isn’t great and should take some of the blame for her struggles but…seriously? Sometimes it seems like she’s not trying and goes for VERY long periods without touching the ball. It’s odd.

    I think Leroux needs to be benched, she’s not playing like someone who sees herself in KC long-term. And she’s already asked her two previous teams for a trade to be with her husband (before kid). I’d be shocked if she’s not in Orlando for 2017. Hopefully, KC can get something decent in return…bc she’s not playing good enough right now for KC to get much.

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