Lots of little stories and features, you may have missed.
The start of the MLS, USL and NWSL seasons are all right around the corner and the news is picking up with them. Let’s get right into it.
Sporting KC II Schedule
This week, SKC II announced their 2021 schedule. The season starts a month from today, May 1st, and will run until October 30th. Sporting Kansas City II will play 32 matches, including a fully balanced home/away schedule (unlike when 14 of 16 games last year were on the road).
Along with the schedule announcement is the confirmation of a two conference, four division slate. SKC II are in the Eastern Conference in the Central Division along with Atlanta United 2, Birmingham Legion FC, FC Tulsa, Indy Eleven, Louisville City FC, Memphis 901 FC and OKC Energy FC.
The aforementioned Central Division opponents will each play each other four (!) times to limit travel. The team will also play four interconference games against two foes in the Mountain Division (Colorado Springs Switchbacks and El Paso Locomotive) and two in the Pacific Division (LA Galaxy II and expansion side Oakland Roots SC). There will be no games against teams in the Atlantic Division.
As of right now, fans will not be allowed to attend SKC II games at Children’s Mercy Park (please change this and then everyone can insert their social distancing SKC II jokes). The full schedule is below with home games in CAPS and road games with a nice “at” in front of them. Start times will be announced later.
PV on Olympic Qualification Failure
If you hadn’t seen, the United States failed to qualify for the 2021 Summer Olympics this past weekend, losing to Honduras 2-1 in the semi-finals. That’s three straight misses for the U-23’s and Sporting KC Head Coach and Sporting Director, Peter Vermes, had some thoughts. It seems pretty clear, he was disappointed to not see age-eligible players like Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, Yunus Musah and others participate.
“I think we have some tremendous talents right now. We have some incredible players,” Vermes said. “But I think we should have done everything we could to have all the players that are eligible to play in the Olympics. We should have done everything we could to work with their clubs to give them the opportunity to find success.”
For those not familiar, teams are not required to release players to international duty outside of designated FIFA windows. However, several of these players were with the Senior National Team playing a friendly against Northern Ireland when they could have helped their country go for Olympic glory. Three more years of waiting are ahead.
A Feature on Fontas
In another story (you’ll see a theme here) from Shaun Goodwin of the Kansas City Star, we find a profile in recovery of often disappointing center back, Andreu Fontas. Seeing what a player is going through definitely adds a human element to what just looks like disappointment from fans and pundits. Fontas has been one of the team’s highest paid players but he’s rarely played due to injury. It seems he’s finally healthy.
The story (which I recommend you go read) details Fontas’ journey through injuries before coming to KC and the unfortunate Achilles injury (now in the other foot) that he had once he was in KC. Maybe he’s got them both out of the way (he has a condition called Haglund’s Deformity that’s now been fixed in both heels) he can finally be healthy and prove his worth.
“This can fix you. I know it will be hard,” Fontas would tell himself. “I’m not done. This is not over.”
Quote me on this, I say he’s the starting LCB with Besler and Reid gone. I’m guessing it’s Roberto Puncec at RCB to start and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin gets his chance when fully fit.
KC NWSL Get a Starting Keeper
Kansas City coach Huw Williams confirmed on Wednesday that he has a starter lined up at GK. Abby Smith, the former starter for the Utah Royals, will continue to start on the transplanted team in KC.
“She has earned that right (to start),” Williams said. “She has come out throughout preseason here ready to battle, ready to earn that spot, and she is clearly our number one goalkeeper right now.”
Smith (no relation) beat out former FC Kansas City starting keeper Nicole Barnhart and 2019 Utah graduate Carly Nelson (who came to her new club from OL Reign in Washington). Many fans of the former FCKC may have been surprised that Barnhart — aka Barnie — isn’t starting, but she is 39-years-old and is continuing to be a leader on the team and in the GK room.
“I think [Barnhart]’s got so much knowledge and sometimes it’s just little things of picking her brain and hearing what she has to say in different scenarios,” Smith said. “I think just kind of watching how she reads the game, I think that’s something I’ve learned a lot about her since I’ve been training and playing with her.”
KC NWSL take the field for the NWSL Challenge Cup on April 9th when they hit the road and face powerhouses the Portland Thorns.
In yet another piece by Shaun Goodwin at the Star (keep up the good work Shaun), he interviewed returning loanee Mallory Weber. The winger has been out on loan with Australia’s Adelaide United (in the W-League) since way back in 2019. Since she’s joining late, she’ll need time to develop with the team, but she should be in shape having just finished her Australian season. She was named to the “Australian W-League’s ‘Team of the Season’ in 2020”, so that should make her a welcome addition.
While she played winger overseas, she has often lined up at fullback in the United States and she said her preferred formation is playing fullback in a 3-5-2 “so I could get up and attack but not always have to be doing the full sprint back to defend.” Early indications are that KC will use a 4-3-3 so it’ll be interesting to see if Weber is a winger or a fullback in Kansas City.
1… 2… 3… 4(!) stories today are from the KC Star. I’m all about supporting local journalism and that’s why I chose to highlight (but not completely spoil) lots of the stories Shaun and his fellow journalists have put out at the Star. If you can’t afford a full subscription, for the last couple years they’ve offered a sports only package for just $2.50 a month. If this level of coverage continues on the KC soccer teams, it’s worth it right there. Not to mention many of you are probably Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs fans. #SupportLocal