Often when a player gets traded or signs with another team, he/she/they pen a social media message thanking the fans of the team they are departing. This happened just yesterday with (now former) KC striker Cece Kizer sharing this:
Sounds like yet another poorly handled player departure for the KC Current (from the player perspective).
Cami or Vlatko gotta work on their communication…
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) January 17, 2024
One obvious element of this post is the almost heartbreaking nature of how this deal went down and what it now means for Kizer, her fiancée, and those close to her. This is continuing an unfortunate pattern of the Current blindsiding their players with surprising and unwanted transactions. But that is not the element of the post I’m wanting to focus on here. Instead, it’s the first lines she wrote; the expression of appreciation for having the chance to play for the fans of Kansas City. Again, this is a common action taken by departing players, and I want to take a moment to return that gratitude.
A week ago, we published a look at the current state of KC’s roster, noting all the players who have been traded away or otherwise not brought back during this offseason. After yesterday’s announcement, that list now reads: Alex Loera, Sam Mewis, Kate Del Fava, Jenna Winebrenner, Chardonnay Curran, Addisyn Merrick, Morgan Gautrat, Croix Soto, Rylan Childers, and Cece Kizer (not even counting additional free agents).
Understandably, turnover happens every year for every team, perhaps especially teams that have come off a disappointing season. Add to this that Kansas City has welcomed a new head coach and there was always going to be change this offseason. With that said, shuffling out at least a third of the roster and parting ways with several fan favorites has resulted in the last couple of months being especially painful. And as these athletes leave KC to seek success with other teams, I wanted to let them know they will be missed.
This is a long list of women no longer employed by the Current and while it would be possible to celebrate each of them individually (or in the case of Sam Mewis, lament what could have been), I’m going to instead focus on the three who likely meant the most to local fans over the past year plus: Alex Loera, Kate Del Fava, and Cece Kizer.
You were one of the first ever draft picks by (the team that would eventually become) the Current and though you decided to stay in college another year, it just made the excitement grow for when you did join the team in 2022. And that excitement was rewarded early that year, before the regular season had even gotten underway, when, during the Challenge Cup, you scored one of the best goals this team has ever seen.
ALEX LOERA'S FIRST NWSL GOAL IS A ROCKET 😱 pic.twitter.com/ltVdFCdtD6
— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) April 24, 2022
You came up as a defender, but it was really as a playmaking midfielder that you won us over. You had an awareness of where all your teammates were at any given moment so that as soon as you had the ball, you could spring an attack with a perfectly placed pass. Indeed, by the conclusion of 2023, it felt like the majority of the goals KC scored were thanks to a long ball over the top or a perfectly weighted cross that you were able to distribute almost without even looking up.
Speaking of the 2023 season, I’m convinced that the Current would have not only made the playoffs, but likely gone far had it not been for your injury. As much as any other person on the roster, the Teal’s fortunes coincided with your availability.
We won’t be at all surprised to see you leading the league in assists every year for the next decade and will just be sorry it won’t be for Kansas City.
Outside defenders are really the workhorses of a modern soccer team. Their primary job is locking down the opposition’s attack, but then they are also expected to provide the team’s width moving forward. How often do we see a wingback up in the attacking corner only to then have to sprint back to stop a counter?
It’s an exhausting and often unglamorous role, but one that is essential for the success of a team. And you held down that right back spot for the past two plus years, providing stability when it often felt like everything else on the field was in flux. It didn’t matter if the team trotted out a five-back or four-back formation, you were there with your steadying presence, playing as many minutes as anyone on the roster last season. KC experimented with so many combinations of defenders, but you were the constant.
And then, of course, there is the moment you punched the team’s ticket to the league semifinals in 2022, well into second half stoppage time:
OH MY! KANSAS CITY WIN IT AT THE DEATH!
It's Kate Del Fava with the winner in the 100th minute! pic.twitter.com/f3Lcqt7SCL
— The Equalizer (@EqualizerSoccer) October 16, 2022
Reaching the NWSL finals is clearly the highpoint for this franchise thus far and you were an integral part of achieving that. (And as if the game-winning goal wasn’t enough, you and Lo also gave us one of the most enjoyable post-game interviews ever—my favorite moment starts at the 6-minute mark.)
Thanks to your quality and durability, Kansas City has gotten very used to seeing you patrolling the right side of the pitch and it will be jarring to see someone other than number 8 out there. It seems likely that Utah has found their “write in pen” starter along the backline for the next several years.
You’re 26-years-old, had been with KC for only 1.5 years, and yet you are the team’s all-time leading goal scorer. How does that happen? Well, it happens because you have a knack for getting the ball in the net. Whether it was you making the perfect run to finish off a beautiful series of passes or you understanding the game and knowing where to be to poke in a rebound, your goal production has been huge for this team. It also seems like the Dash know what they’re getting in you and are pumped:
— Houston Dash (@HoustonDash) January 17, 2024
You have been Kansas City through and through—born in Overland Park, a Blue Valley Northwest High graduate, banging the ceremonial drum at a Chiefs game, and leading the attack for the Current. You also score goals wherever you play, not only leading KC in that category, but notching Louisville’s first ever tally. That kind of production isn’t easily replaced.
But you aren’t “just” a poacher. Some of the most exciting moments for this team have been when you’ve received the ball at your feet with space in front of you. You make quick decisions and put defenders on their heels. You’re good in the air and have often been the target on crosses and corners. You were usually a starter, but you were just as effective off the bench, bringing energy and a confidence that the team, if trailing, could get back into any game. It was peace of mind for those of us cheering from the stands or in front of our TVs.
I also wonder if you and LaBonta ever debated the proper way to wear socks.
You were Cash Money for a reason, and now it feels as though KC is in debt.
To Alex, Kate, Cece, and everyone else the Current have let go this offseason, we, your fans, say THANK YOU.