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Checking in on the Current’s New Additions

New players are scoring and playing full matches



Photo: Thad Bell | KC Soccer Journal
Photo: Thad Bell | KC Soccer Journal

The Kansas City Current are two (successful) matches into the 2024 season and are fielding a team that looks quite different than the group that concluded 2023. (By the way, here’s to hoping whatever off-field issue Alex Loera is dealing with isn’t a big deal.) Andonovski has used a similar lineup in both games to date, so while we don’t yet have match data on a handful of new additions (Regan Steigleder, Nichelle Prince, Sophie Braun, Bayley Feist, and Hope Hisey) we have been able to cheer on several newcomers to the red and teal. And while of course it’s still very early in the season, that’s not going to stop us from quick evaluations of what we’ve seen thus far.

Almost without exception, the returning players have been strong. Franch seems to be avoiding the early-season stumbles that have plagued her the last couple of years–in fact the Wave’s lone goal on Saturday was a shame because it immediately followed a fantastic save from AD. Lavogez looks to have returned to 2022 form. DiBernardo, Rodriguez, Hamilton, and Labonta have all notched important goals for the team. Debinha is Debinha (when she’s healthy). But these were all known entities for the team and its fans. Let’s instead look at those players who joined during the offseason.

Bia Zaneratto was perhaps the highest profile signing for the team as one of Brazil’s starting strikers for a decade. Her addition brought the number of Brazilian internationals repping the Current to three (with Debinha and Lauren). Though Andonovski is still somewhat managing her minutes (as she basically had no preseason training with the team), her impact has been immediate and obvious. She is a strong focal point for KC’s attack with excellent ball skills. It doesn’t feel like hyperbole to suggest that without Bia, KC could be 0-2 at this point as she scored an excellent goal against Portland and then earned the PK that Labonta buried against San Diego. It’s reasonable to believe that her positive impact will only continue to grow as she gets more time with her new teammates.

As great as Bia is already proving herself to be, the most exciting new player thus far might be Temwa Chawinga. The Malawi international joined the team having made a name for herself by scoring the most goals (for club and country) of any player, male or female, in 2023. She’s yet to notch a score for Kansas City, but don’t let that fool you. She assisted on the game-winning goal versus Portland immediately after setting up the previous score. Her pace is incredible and she very nearly used that to tally a banger against San Diego as she raced behind the defense and blistered a shot off the woodwork. Like with Bia, as her teammates get more accustomed to what she’s capable of, expect more balls over the top to her that she’ll be able to catch up to and punish the opposition.

The final three newcomers are all young (even very young) rookies experiencing their first tastes of professional club soccer. Ellie Wheeler was a draftee this year for the team and due in part to Hanna Glas’s ongoing recovery from injury as well as the trade that sent Kate Del Fava to Utah (congrats to her, by the way, for scoring the expansion side’s first ever goal last weekend), Ellie has played all 180 minutes thus far this season at wingback. Against Portland she found herself in the right place (and outraced Labonta to the ball) to blast home the second-ever goal in CPKC’s stadium history. More importantly, she’s been a steady presence on the right side of the team’s defense. While the defense as a whole has looked shaky at times, especially in the final half-hour of the opener, Wheeler has been solid, even when tasked with going up against the likes of Sophia Smith, Alex Morgan, Sofia Jakobsson.

Slotting in just ahead of her in the formation, Claire Hutton has also logged every available minute through the first two matches. Again, this might be because Scott is still working her way back from injury, but Hutton’s play will force Andonovski into some tough decisions even once the veteran defensive midfielder is fully match fit. Having just turned 18 in January, Hutton has shown maturity beyond her years as she’s battled against some of the sport’s biggest stars over the past fortnight. Though she’s not yet gotten on the scorer’s sheet (not the primary goal for a holding mid), she has been instrumental in winning duals across the center of the pitch and making decisive passes that have led to opportunities moving forward. Current fans got a bit spoiled with some of the long passes Loera was able to make for the team over the past couple of years from this spot, but don’t be surprised if Hutton becomes the heir apparent in that role.

Finally, the youngest member of the team and the youngest ever goal scorer in the league (you can also admire Chawinga’s touch to set up the goal), Alex Pfeiffer can only recently legally drive, but she definitely has a license to play soccer. She’s been a second half sub in both matches thus far and has brought energy and fearlessness to the field. Regardless of what happens over the rest of her career, she will forever be remembered as having scored the game-winning goal in the first ever match played in the first ever professional women’s soccer stadium. But it would be shocking if she didn’t experience many other personal highlights along the way. Just like the other two rookies here, there is a chance she’ll get a little more buried on the depth chart once the team (Cooper, Debinha, Prince, etc.) gets a little healthier, but you couldn’t have asked for a better start to a career than what Pfeiffer has achieved. And no matter how many minutes she gets the rest of this season, she’ll be gaining valuable training and maturity that will set her up perfectly to expand her role into one of the team’s primary contributors in the near future.

Offseason acquisitions can sometimes feel like a crapshoot. Kansas City made splashy signings following the 2021 & 2022 seasons only to have many of those athletes never find the same levels of success they’d had before coming here (some of them barely saw the field at all). This season has already been different. Five newcomers have already made significant contributions in the team’s 2-0-0 start and are helping to mask the Current’s frustrating injury patterns. Players being unavailable really derailed the season last year, but despite having most of a starting lineup out right now, KC has raced out of the gate and is one of only two teams sitting on 6 points thus far. We may not always be fans of player transactions, but Ashton and Andonovski’s work building this roster seems to be coming up roses. Consider me already a big fan of the depth and the new team members.

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