5 Players to Watch: KC NWSL
FCKC RIDES AGAIN! SOCCER IS BACK IN KANSAS CITY
The National Women’s Soccer League features some of the biggest stars in the world. With the Summer Olympics kicking off in July, many of those stars will be absent for a significant portion of the season. Additionally, the start of the league’s Challenge Cup competition will fall in an international FIFA window, meaning the national team players will be called up instead of being with their club teams to start the tournament. Fortunately, the league’s impressive depth will be showcased while the internationals are away. This series will highlight five players from each NWSL team who can take advantage of the opportunity to make a name for themselves this season.
So... I think I speak for a chunk of fans and players who were just absolutely devastated when FC Kansas City folded in 2017. This was such a special and unique team; they could lose the most basic games and win the championship. Therefore, it is my most highest honor to welcome Kansas City back into the NWSL fold! While it doesn't have the all big names it did before, it still has the bones and foundation in certain players that will allow the team to rise from the ashes of FCKC and become KC in their own right. With a mix of vets and rooks, here are my five players to watch in 2021:
Mariana Larroquette: If you didn't watch any of the games that Argentina played in the past SheBelieves Cup, then you missed out on a chance to see this player. KC will be bringing international experience with Larroquette, who has 29 caps with the national team and 9 goals. She is such a fun player to watch, she's in good form and she'll be a solid presence for this (new) team. As a forward, she will most likely partner up with striker Amy Rodriguez, but I'll also be looking to her to create chances that help the team rack up the goals.
Darian Jenkins: Totally not ashamed to admit that I watched Jenkins when she played for UCLA. She was such an explosive player, always making something out of nothing, and a real leader, with 29 goals in her collegiate career. Her NWSL career got off to a shaky start, as she had picked up an injury before she was drafted by North Carolina. As good as she was in college, it was hard for her to break out on the Courage. She got a second chance with OL Reign and was able to start showing everyone the skills that propelled her into the spotlight at UCLA. Now at KC, and fully healthy, I fully believe that she will really grow into her own, getting time up front with Larroquette and Rodriguez. She still has a lot to prove and can really make an impact coming off the bench, if need be.
Sydney Miramontez: AN FCKC OG! Miramontez was signed under Vlatko and played her rookie season under him with the likes of Shea Groom, Becky Sauerbrunn, Syd Leroux, Yael Averbuch and Erika Tymrak. You could tell she still had a lot of developing to do, but she is so fun to watch! She played 14 games in the two years she was with Utah before putting her mental health first and announcing her retirement. I'm super stoked that she feels she's in a better place mentally to come back to the sport. Defense wins championships, and with a foundation from playing with someone like Sauerbrunn, she can continue to shake off the rust and develop into a fantastic defender. I expect that she will anchor the backline, with both experience and confidence and keep things tight and steady.
Kristen Edmonds: Kristen Edmonds has a lot of experience under her belt. She has international experience, playing in Iceland and Russia before signing with Western New York Flash in 2014. She had 33 appearances before being traded to the Orlando Pride, and boy howdy! She had an explosive season with the Pride in their inaugural season, scoring 6 goals from the midfield. She did lose steam between 2018-2019, when the team was on its worst run in the league. She was bounced between the midfield and defense, which admittedly isn't her strongest position. She was traded to KC and has the chance for a fresh start. The girl is good, there's no doubt about that. It will be interesting to see what need she fills for KC this season. I'm hoping to see her in the midfield, as I truly believe she's strongest there, but she can also help anchor the backline along with Miramontez.
Ashley Nick: There's a blast from the past! I haven't seen Ashley Nick since her days at Sky Blue back in 2016. She disappeared off the radar for 2017 before resurfacing in 2018 and signed with Juventus. I truly have no idea what to expect from her, which is why she's my final player to watch. From what I remember of her, she was a tenacious midfielder, solid and steady. I honestly have no clue what her form is like these days, so I'm extremely curious to see how she looks these days.