KCFC: Making a name for itself in Kansas City, Midwest soccer
By Jimmy LaRoue
Waukegan, Ill. – KCFC coach Huw Williams noted how much Eclipse Select has influenced the midwestern soccer scene, so for his Under-16s to defeat the host side at the ECNL National Finals was a special achievement.
“They’re a great side, not just a tough side,” Williams said after KCFC’s 2-1 overtime win Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Under-16 ECNL national championships. “It’s a team, a club which we’ve traditionally gone up against. We have a lot of respect for them – coaching staff, players, all the way through.
“They’ve been a model for Midwest soccer, in particular on the girls’ side of things, so that game means a lot. To beat a team like that and get to the final four, these girls have worked awfully hard.”
KCFC got goals from Savvy Trujillo and the game-winner from Rachel Catrell in overtime, and will face Slammers FC for a place in the championship match.
But there’s a reason why KCFC went undefeated in the Midwest Conference, going 17-0-0 in the regular season and scoring 69 goals while giving up just seven, while going 12-4-2 and finishing fourth in the ECNL’s national Flight A. Playing out of a 3-4-3 formation, Williams uses a trio of attacking players, including U-15 national teamer Dorian Bailey, a technically sound player who can play any of the outside positions for KCFC and is a handful for opponents. Abigail Sieperda led KCFC with 16 goals during the season, while getting nine more from Trujillo, and eight each from Bailey and Madeline Dieker. Bailey and Dieker combined for 18 assists on the season.
Williams said KCFC was trying to shake off some rust coming off of high school season and is working its way through fitness issues, but praised them for the effort.
“I think, on the day, we deserved to win,” Williams said. “But we deserved to win just about, because I think it was two, very good teams out there.”
He said he wanted to see his team take the ball out wide, penetrate down the middle, pass wide and create opportunities for KCFC’s outside players in one-on-one situations. He had hoped to take advantage of Eclipse having to play an overtime game the day before against West Coast FC by making them chase.
“We’re good at beating people on the penetrating dribble, so get to the end line and pull the ball back and keep the ball on the ground to take advantage of this wind,” Williams said.
He said four games in four days is tough, and playing the day after an overtime win is tougher, but as he said, “it is what it is.” Ice baths, cooldowns, hydration, and rest are some of the only tools available for coaches in his situation.
“There’s a lot of things we can control,” Williams said. “That we can’t.”
In his second year coaching this KCFC side, Williams said the team has progressed from the beginning of the season, noting that his girls had lost to Eclipse previously in the semifinals in the USYSA regionals. In an early season matchup, KCFC went to Michigan and beat the Michigan Hawks.
“That’s when I realized we were good,” Williams said.
He is strong up the middle with center back Cristina DeZeeuw, whose physical, yet soccer-savvy nature allows KCFC to play three in the back, and central midfielder Haley Hanson, who scored twice in KCFC’s opening win Wednesday over San Diego Surf.
It’s an explosive, fast team that is going to give any team a handful, and the win would add to the club’s U-18 national championship and raise the profile of soccer in Kansas City.
“I moved over here from Wales in 1985, and Kansas City soccer, the changes in Kansas City soccer has been immense in that time,” Williams said. “Now, we believe in ourselves, and our Under-18s, winning it last year, opened doors and helped them believe a little bit in themselves too.”
He said he feels as if the team is representing the city of Kansas City, not just KCFC, and while he is selfish in wanting the same experience for his U-16s as the U-18s had last season. But in the end, he’d rather see this group of girls have the experience.
“It’s something they’ll remember forever, right? We’re creating memories is what we’re doing here,” Williams said.