PORTLAND, Ore. (Oct. 1, 2015) – FC Kansas City became the first team to win back-to-back championships as Amy Rodriguez scored and Nicole Barnhart made three saves to lead the Blues to a 1-0 victory over Seattle Reign FC on Thursday night in the 2015 NWSL Championship Game at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
Rodriguez’s goal game in the 78th minute and was the sixth of her postseason career – extending her NWSL record. The U.S. international was set up for the score by a cross from midfielder Heather O’Reilly after she was played down the left flank by an excellent through ball from Lauren Holiday.
The victory was the second-straight in the NWSL Championship Game for FC Kansas City over the Reign after also beating Seattle 2-1 in the 2014 title match at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Wash.
Holiday, Rodriguez, O’Reilly and defender Becky Sauerbrunn now enjoy a historic double for club and country – claiming the NWSL title after winning the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada as members of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“I couldn’t have wrote a better script,” Holiday said. “This is absolutely incredible, to win for club and country is a dream come true.”
The game was also the final club match of Holiday’s career after the 2013 NWSL MVP announced in July she would retire following the conclusion of the 2015 season.
“Thank you to these fans [in Portland], you guys were incredible tonight. This is the way women’s soccer should be celebrated,” Holiday told the crowd of 13,264 at Providence Park. “Hats off to my team – Heather O’Reilly with a great cross and Amy Rodriguez with an unbelieve finish and this is such a blessing just to play on this team so I’m so proud of them.”
FC Kansas City’s superlative defense was once again on display – with Barnhart and her backline of Sauerbrunn, Leigh Ann Brown, Amy LePeilbet and Becca Moros earning their second shutout of the playoffs after posting a league-best nine during the regular season.
“[Seattle ]have a lot of fire power up top, their attacking game is just so strong we were under it for quite a bit, especially the last 20 minutes so kudos to them for always giving us a really tough match,” Sauerbrunn said. “I thought we came out strong, stayed disciplined and that made the difference in the end.”
Sauerbrunn also took the opportunity to reflect on becoming the first team in the history of the league to win the NWSL Championship in consecutive seasons.
“Our coaching staff and our ownership has done a great job putting together a really strong squad and we have a really clear philosophy of how we want to play the game,” Sauerbrunn said. “I think tonight you saw two teams that really like to play soccer the way it’s supposed to be played.”
For Seattle, the back-to-back NWSL Shield winners continued the pattern of the team with the league’s best regular-season record losing in the championship game.
FC Kansas City generated the opening chance of the match in the 15th minute, when Lauren Holiday was able to turn and run at the Seattle backline before laying the ball off to O’Reilly, who blazed a shot over Hope Solo’s bar from about 15 yards.
The Reign responded in kind in the 20th minute as Megan Rapinoe broke into space down left side and then found a streaking Kim Little in acres of space with a swerving the ball into her bath and setting her up for a shot from 22 yards that stung the palms of Barnhart.
LePeilbet came close in the 27th minute as she lingered in the box following a FCKC corner that was recycled out wide for Holiday to whip the ball into the box. The U.S. international dropped her in swinging left-footed cross into the penalty area and found LePeilbet, who sent a diving header past the near post.
The game’s first flash point came in the 39th minute when FC Kansas City midfielder Jen Buczkowski and Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock came together near the halfway line. The Seattle player came off worse and remained on the ground for several minutes after replays appeared to show she was on the receiving end of a studs up tackle by Buczkowski.
FC Kansas City was the more aggressive of the two teams to start the second half, testing Solo twice in the 51st minute. The Seattle goalkeeper was first called into action to stop a low shot by O’Reilly after she was played into the penalty area by Blues midfielder Erika Tymrak.
Solo was called into action again less than a minute later when Rodriguez weaved her way through three Reign defenders before sending a bouncing shot on net that her fellow U.S. international was able to collect with ease.
In the 60th minute, Reign defender Kendall Fletcher came the closest to scoring to that point in the match when her fluky right-footed cross drifted back toward Barnhart’s goal and bounced off the top off the crossbar.
Seattle found the woodwork again three minutes later when Rapinoe sent a 25-yard strike crashing off the left post in the 63rd minute after she was set up by an intricate interchange between Little and forward Beverly Yanez.
FC Kansas City had a penalty shot in the 70th minute when Tymrak broke into the box down the left flank and went down under a challenge from Fletcher.
Regardless, the defending champions found themselves up 1-0 eight minutes later when O’Reilly was played down the same left flank by a pass from Holiday and was afforded the time and space to send a cross into the box that Rodriguez rose to meet and direct past Solo.
The goal was the sixth in four games in her postseason career for Rodriguez, extending her NWSL record.
Seattle frantically tried to claw themselves back into the match with Rapinoe forcing a save from Barnhart in the 86th minute after she got on the end of a low cross from second-half substitute Katrine Veje and struck a hard show along the ground.
Then in the 91st minute, Rapinoe won a free kick that she sent into box for defender Lauren Barnes to put a looping header past the far post.
But the Reign were unable to find a way past Barnhart and FC Kansas City, who rushed the field to celebrate the final whistle with Rodriguez and her best friend Holiday sharing a hug after the last game of Holiday’s illustrious career.
Match: FC Kansas City vs. Seattle Reign FC
Date: October 1, 2015
Venue: Providence Park (Portland, Ore.)
Kickoff: 6:43 p.m. PT
Goals by Half 1 2 F
FCKC 0 1 1
SRFC 0 0 0
FCKC – Amy Rodriguez 78′ (Heather O’Reilly)
FCKC – Becky Sauerbrunn 76′ – Caution
Lineups & Stats
FCKC: GK Nicole Barnhart, D Leigh Ann Brown, D Amy LePeilbet, D Becky Sauerbrunn (C), D Becca Moros, M Jen Buczkowski, M Mandy Laddish (Yael Averbuch, 90 + 2), M Erika Tymrak (Shea Groom, 88), M Heather O’Reilly, M Lauren Holiday, F Amy Rodriguez (Sarah Hagen, 90 +3)
Substitutes not used: Katelyn Rowland, Liz Bogus, Frances Silva, Caroline Kastor
SRFC: GK Hope Solo, D Kendall Fletcher, D Rachel Corsie, D Lauren Barnes, D Stephanie Cox (Elli Reed, 77), M Keelin Winters (C), M Kim Little, M Jessica Fishlock, F Merritt Mathias (Katrine Veje, 72), F Megan Rapinoe, F Beverly Yanez
Substitutes not used: Haley Kopmeyer, Amber Brooks, Mariah Bullock, Danielle Foxhoven, Kiersten Dallstream
Referee: Katja Koroleva
Assistant Referees: Amanda Ross, Jennifer Garner
Fourth Official: Margaret Domka
Reserve Assistant Referee: Benjamin Wooten
Shots: FCKC- 10, SRFC – 7
Shots on goal: FCKC – 3, SRFC – 3
Saves: FCKC- 3, SRFC – 2
Corner kicks: FCKC- 2, SRFC – 5
Fouls: FCKC- 8, SRFC – 2
Offsides: FCKC- 1, SRFC – 3