Kansas City Current Look to Rebound against Portland as NWSL Shield Race Heats Up
KANSAS CITY - Following its first loss in 113 days, the Kansas City Current (9-5-5, 32pts, 1st place) return to Children's Mercy Park Sunday, Sept. 18 for one of the clubs most significant matches to date. The Current square off with the Portland Thorns (8-3-7, 31pts, T-2nd place) in a match that holds significant postseason implications and could help to determine the winner of the NWSL Shield. Sunday's matchup will stream on Paramount+.
Wednesday, Kansas City's 13-match unbeaten streak came to an end in a 4-0 road loss to the Chicago Red Stars. A rotated Current squad managed to out-shoot Chicago 12-8, but Kansas City couldn't quite find a goal. The shutout loss snapped the Current's 13-match scoring streak, which coincided with the team's unbeaten streak. Chicago forward Mallory Pugh managed two goals and an assist in the Red Stars' victory.
Portland has not played since Friday, Sept. 9, a 2-0 road triumph over the Orlando Pride. After peppering Orlando's goal throughout the opening half-hour, the Thorns broke through in the 31st minute with a well-worked goal by forward Yazmeen Ryan. Orlando threatened to equalize, but Portland eventually doubled its advantage in the 65th minute with an outside-the-box strike from midfielder Hina Sugita.
ALL TO PLAY FOR
Coach Potter, LaBonta and midfielder Desiree Scott spoke about the importance of not letting one loss define the team as just three matches remain in the 2022 regular season following Wednesday's loss. Fortunately, Kansas City won't have to wait long for another opportunity to bounce back from Wednesday's loss and start a new streak.
Kansas City welcomes the Thorns Sunday for the second time in the 2022 regular season. The Current and Portland previously met April 30, the first match of the regular season and the Thorns won 3-0. Now, nearly five months since that meeting, Kansas City and Portland sit in first and second place, respectively, in the NWSL standings. The Current have just three matches remaining in the regular season while the Thorns have four, placing further emphasis on a positive result from Kansas City's perspective.
While Kansas City can't build on its impressive unbeaten streak Sunday, it can make club history with a positive result. The Current are 0-4-1 all-time against Portland in all competitions and have scored just one goal on Portland in five meetings. If the Current are to separate themselves from a congested NWSL table by weekend's end, bouncing back with a strong performance against Portland is a must.
In the 90th minute of Wednesday's loss, Ball picked up a yellow card that ultimately proved costly. One of the stalwarts of the Current's defense in 2022, the caution marked Ball's fifth booking of the season, meaning she will receive a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Ball has appeared in every single one of the Current's regular season matches and had started 10 consecutive matches before Sunday.
Potter has a few options for replacing Ball in the center of the Current's defense. Defenders Taylor Leach and Alex Loera are candidates, though each played 45 minutes against Chicago. Notably, Kristen Edmonds also played 90 minutes against both Chicago and Gotham Sunday. Rookie defender Jenna Winebrenner made a substitute appearance in her first match action since returning from injury in August.
LOOKING BACK AT THE STREAK
Even though Kansas City's unbeaten streak came to an end Wednesday, head coach Matt Potter's squad went on a truly historic run that sent shockwaves through the NWSL.
After the Current lost 1-0 to OL Reign May 25, the team sat in 11th place in the NWSL standings with a record of 0-4-1. Over the next 13 games, Kansas City earned 31 points, won nine matches and allowed just 14 goals. All those figures ranked first in the NWSL, which contributed heavily to the Current's ascent to first place in the league for the first time in franchise history.
Several Current players have put together impressive individual seasons in 2022, with their performances largely coinciding with the team's unbeaten run. Midfielder Lo'eau LaBonta and forwards Cece Kizer and Kristen Hamilton have all scored a franchise-record six goals and goalkeeper AD Franch picked up her 40th career shutout in the team's 1-0 victory over NJ/NY Gotham FC September 11. LaBonta and Franch were named to both the July and Aug. NWSL Best XI of the Month, while defenders Elizabeth Ball (August), Hailie Mace (July) and Kristen Edmonds (July) also received monthly honors.
The Current's 13-match unbeaten streak stands as the second-longest unbeaten streak in NWSL history. The team's five-match road winning streak, snapped with Wednesday's loss, was tied for the longest such road winning streak in league history.
MAKING HISTORY, BUILDING THE STANDARD
The Kansas City Current officially launched season ticket deposits for the first stadium purpose-built for a women's professional soccer team Tuesday morning. Fans can place a deposit and learn more at KCCurrentStadium.com.
The best way to reserve a seat at the stadium in 2024 is with a new stadium membership. A new stadium membership provides access to all preseason, regular season and NWSL Challenge Cup matches played by KC Current at the new stadium (beginning in the 2024 NWSL season), as well as exclusive year-round member-only events and benefits that will be announced later. Deposits are open for seats in the supporter's section, general reserve, club seating and premium suites, and are fully refundable.
Demand for season ticket memberships in the new stadium is expected to exceed capacity therefore, seat selection will be subject to availability. To guarantee seats for games in the new stadium, it's encouraged to become a 2023 Current Season Ticket Member at Children's Mercy Park to secure seat selection priority.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kansas City Current defender Alex Loera - Loera should play a major part in assisting to keep the Thorns' offense at bay Sunday. The rookie has been a crucial part of Kansas City's rotation in 2022, making 17 appearances, 15 starts and totaling over 1,400 minutes played. Defensively, she's recorded 32 clearances and made 19 interceptions. With just 45 minutes played in the Current's last two matches, Loera should play a significant role Sunday.
Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith - Portland forward Sophia Smith is the leader of a Thorns offense that has scored 39 goals entering Sunday's match, the highest total in the NWSL. A United States Women's National Team regular, Smith went on a torrid run in which she scored eight goals in five appearances spanning from June 8 through Aug. 5. Smith ranks second in the NWSL Golden Boot race, four behind league leader and San Diego Wave forward Alex Morgan.
Chicago Red Stars vs. Kansas City Current
Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. CT
SeatGeek Stadium - Bridgeview, Illinois
Watch on Paramount+, KMCI, 38 The Spot
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