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Breakdown: Kansas City Current escape a break

Better get used to it… Robinson, Pedersen, Franch combine to stop a breaking Angel City FC.



AD Franch in practice | Credit: Thad Bell

Five wins in six matches. No losses. The Kansas City Current are beyond being just on a hot streak: They are the talk of Kansas City, of the NWSL. They seem, especially their relentless attack that comes in waves (literally), unstoppable, head shakingly so.

(Insert that video of some opposing coach shaking his/her head after a Current goal that I heard of but couldn’t find.)

To remain unstoppable, things will need to change. A 1.83 goals against average in those six matches is not championship defense. But that stat, like many, is deceiving, skewed by four allowed on Matchday one. Since, the Current have allowed seven in five matches. That clip is a 1.4 gaa, still not championship defense, still no goose eggs on the opponent’s scoreboard. But it is improvement, however far from excelling.

As opponents change defensive tactics to slow the Current attack, perhaps by clogging the midfield and enticing the Current forward, Kansas City will need to excel at defending counter attacks. Have faith; there is growing evidence that the Kansas City Current are up to the task.

In the 12th minute last Friday night in Los Angeles versus Kansas City, Angel City FC attacker Jasmyne Spencer is released on the right wing with only one defender to beat. Angel City #10 Claire Emslie and forward Sydney Leroux join Spencer, attacking the middle and left side, respectively. Defending is Current left back Gabrielle Robinson, supported by center back Stine Pedersen, retreating in the middle, and goalkeeper AD Franch. A 3v2 break.

Credit: NWSL+

Even though Spencer fires off a dangerous shot by play’s end, Robinson, Pedersen, and Franch defend brilliantly. Defending well is a matter what one does. But it is also a matter of what one does not do.

Once Spencer is released down the Current’s left flank, Robinson runs diagonally to meet Spencer, Robinson’s eyes focus on the ball, and peripherally, on Spencer’s hips. Even more importantly, Robinson is not defending fully in front of Spencer. Instead, Robinson stays downfield, but a yard at her back foot to the left of Spencer (a slightly exaggerated “side-on”), a precaution for Spencer trying to take her one-on-one. The shading wide also forces Spencer into two minds – go one-on-one or play a combination with Emslie to work behind Robinson?

Kansas City center back Pedersen is dealing with both Emslie and Leroux running at her. And she deals like a master. Even while backtracking, Pedersen has been turning her head to assess the situation. Once she arrives at decision time, Pedersen could easily run deep behind Robinson to provide full cover. But she sees Robinson is forcing Spencer wide. Pedersen also could close tightly on the Scottish playmaker Emslie and force the Canadian forward offside early. Pedersen wisely lets patience rule the moment and keeps both Emslie and Leroux mostly at bay as she positions herself centrally and even with Leroux, and waits to pounce.

Credit: NWSL+

Pedersen is watching Spencer’s hips too. The moment the Dane’s hips slight inward, Pedersen moves her own momentum forward to confront Emslie, who is about to receive. Spencer’s pass is behind Emslie. Thus, Pedersen’s guile and quickness nearly break up the pass back to Spencer.

Credit: NWSL+

In the meantime, Robinson turns 180 and runs straight back (maybe a half step to her right) to cover Pedersen, then another 180 to again challenge Spencer. Robinson’s necessary steps towards Spencer – who is pushed wider because of the pressured pass – give Spencer time to shoot.

But Spencer’s angle is a difficult one to score from. Why? Because both Pedersen and Robinson have defended so well (Side note: If Robinson had stepped more to her right to cover Pedersen, Spencer may have had a touch inward.). Now, it is Franch’s turn to defend.

…On the other side of the ball, what could Angel City have done differently? An early ball from Spencer to Leroux could have put Leroux in on goal. One big touch past Pedersen, and Leroux would have Franch at her mercy. Or Emslie could have run two steps to her right closer to Spencer for a quick give-and-go to put Spencer in behind Robinson or for Emslie to clip a possible through ball to Leroux if Leroux stays on side. Ironically, Spencer’s pass may have been a message to Emslie – there is where I wanted you to be…

Make no mistake, Franch has been defending the whole sequence. Once the pass goes back to Spencer, Franch incrementally steps towards the near post to her left. However, Franch’s body position is key. The Kansas native is ready to go left towards that near post shot or right for a far post attempt. When Spencer strikes, Franch is leaning a bit left, but has her feet set (the other key), ready to react either way. Of course, Franch’s ready feet and reach allow her to extend right and parry the shot beyond her far post. Any more leaning left would have meant 1-0 Angel City FC in the 12th minute.

No panic. All principled defense. Anything less from Robinson, Pedersen, and Franch and Angel City would have known they had an advantage on the counter against Kansas City Current all night. Instead, a 3-1 win, albeit won late, was the result for the Current.

More defense like that and Kansas City will not only gain some goose eggs, but some gold, sterling, brass, or silver women perched atop a trophy or two.


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