FC Kansas City advance to NWSL final with decisive win over Chicago

Defending NWSL champions FC Kansas City swept aside the Chicago Red Stars 3-0 Sunday in front of a sparse house at Toyota Park to advance to this year’s final. Amy Rodriguez scored twice as KC played the game at a canter, outclassing a Chicago side that at times looked simply dreadful.

KC will now face the winner of Sunday’s other semifinal, between the Seattle Reign and the Washington Spirit, staged later on this evening. There is a possibility of a rematch of last year’s final: KC edged Seattle 2-1 last season to raise the crown.

It was a poor game played in immaculate conditions as Kansas City scored some laughable goals against a Red Stars side that seemed to be unskilled in defensive fundamentals. A dreadful backpass led to the first goal and terrible goalkeeping errors led to the second and third, allowing Kansas City an easy day out in the Windy City’s late summer sunshine.

Chicago tried to get off to slick start with Lori Chalpuny and Christen Press combining to force Nicole Barnhart into an early save with a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar in just the seventh minute. But despite controlling possession early, they displayed little tactical nous, and they shortly were undone by a howler of a play.

Keeper Michelle Dalton passed the ball out to Abby Erceg, but under pressure from Lauren Holiday, the New Zealand international inexplicably passed it back towards her own net. Dalton then compounded Erceg’s error by dawdling with the ball at her feet, allowing Holiday to pluck it off her laces. Holiday, who looked as shocked as Dalton, popped the ball square to Amy Rodriguez, and she subsequently tucked it in at the near post. Rodriguez celebrated with the glee of someone who had just found a hundred dollars lying in the middle of the street, and it was appropriate for it was a gift.

Ten minutes later, KC doubled their fun on a similarly poor bit of goalkeeping. Heather O’Reilly dinked the ball over a static Red Stars back line and with Julie Johnston AWOL, Erika Tymrak blew the ball in from an acute angle past Dalton. What Dalton was doing on the play cannot be explained; the ball simply went right through her in a manner a keeper can never allow.

Dalton was already having a bad day, but it descended into a full-fledged nightmare only three minutes later. A simple route one outlet allowed Rodriguez to steam in on her goal, and the keeper, rooted and helpless, was unable to prevent the national teamer from simply dribbling around her to score. Dalton, sensing the jig was up, slumped to the turf in dismay. Chicago had given up three goals only once before in this season, and they lost that game as well.

Press cut an increasingly isolated and frustrated figure. She would ping another shot off the bar, but she is too slight to be a lone-runner up top, and as such was reduced to trying her luck from range against a stingy KC side that concedes very few goals.

The Red Stars tried to shake things up in the second half, withdrawing the outclassed Erceg for Samantha Johnson and adding another forward in Sofia Huerta at the expense of a central midfielder. Huerta forced a solid save at the near post from Barnhart in the 55th, but the chances for the Red Stars remained few and far between.

That forced manager Rory Dames to roll the dice with an hour to go, pulling the invisible Jen Hoy for Melissa Tancredi with the hopes of shaking things up on set plays. That finally got the offense going for the homers, with Press forcing a solid stop on the hour mark, but despite Tancredi’s big physical presence in the box, the Red Stars kept wasting corner kicks and set plays.

That allowed KC to just stay set and absorb the pressure, which they did in a professional manner. If they had the manner of a team that was already looking ahead to their second straight final, well who could blame them? This was too easy a win in the end, and it will leave Chicago with a lot of thinking to do ahead of next year.