Recognition for a historical performance 👑👑👑
— KC Current (@thekccurrent) July 26, 2023
Kansas City and Chicago clash in the penultimate match for each team of the NWSL Challenge Cup group stage.
When: Saturday, July 29
Where: SeatGeek Stadium | Bridgeview, IL
Time: 7:00 PM CT
Radio: KC Current Radio on Kansas City Current app
If you think back to the offseason, expectations were sky high for our river-themed team. Not only had they finished the 2022 season in the championship match, but they were aggressive in adding big names and attacking power to the roster. Of course, those expectations have largely gone wanting as the team sits in dead last, a full six points out of the final playoff spot with just seven regular season matches to go. They fired their head coach three games into the season (coincidentally after a loss against Chicago), they’ve consistently toted around an injury list that often looks like a full starting lineup (including some of those signings who have yet to play a minute for the team), they can’t settle on a starting keeper (a battle that includes a netminder who was expected to represent the US at the World Cup this year), they’ve leaked goals in the back and scored the third-fewest goals in the league despite offense seeming like a strength. Again, in short, this is not the season the team was hoping for or many of us expected.
And yet, if you consider just the Challenge Cup, you’ll find a team that’s doing quite well (a team performing up to expectations). Yes, they sit in second place in their division as Louisville itself is on a tear, and yes, they may be benefiting from the Central Division being the weakest of the three, but still they have three wins from four matches, a plus 7 goal differential, and control their own destiny. They’ve already demolished their opponent this weekend, Chicago, once in this competition to the tune of 4-0 and are coming off a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Houston that included the team’s first ever hattrick (it’s great to have Hamilton back in form). As for controlling their own destiny, either they finish strong in the final two group stage games and overtake Louisville for first or they do enough against Chicago and Louisville to maintain their spot as the best second-place team in the three divisions. Right now, Kansas City has 9 points in the competition with Portland sitting in second in the west on 6 points and Gotham on 7 points (with a game in hand) in second in the east.
The good news doesn’t stop there as that extensive injury list is finally starting to shrink. Loera has been adding minutes the last couple matches, LaBonta was on the bench for last weekend’s game, Mace may be about ready to return, Dibernardo may also be close, and Lavogez is back to practicing. Of course, we can’t have all good news as Kizer reinjured her ankle the last time out and Cooper will have to miss this match due to yellow card accumulation. But it is easy to dream about this team’s strength in the near future. When the World Cup squads were announced, Kansas City had just one participant. They now have three as they’ve recently signed central defenders from Denmark and Brazil. And speaking of defense, Glas, another national team-caliber player may be inching closer to seeing the field for the first time in Current red/teal (not to mention Canadian international Scott working her way back from her own injury). Certainly too, the team gets immediately stronger at the conclusion of Brazil’s run through the Cup and Debinha returns to the squad.
Caroline Sjöblom gave some big updates today regarding KC Current injuries:
Claire Lavogez is practicing.
Hailie Mace will play this weekend.
Vanessa Dibernado and Morgan Gautrat are still up in the air.
Desi Scott and Hanna Glas are still further out. #kcbaby pic.twitter.com/78LDvAPE2F
— Justin Horneker (@hornekerjustin) July 26, 2023
What does this all mean for Saturday’s match between the Current and the Red Stars? Besides the fact that the game is taking place in Chicago, most of the momentum would seem to be on KC’s side. The Red Stars were shut out 0-2 last weekend by Louisville and have a high profile injury of their own in Mallory Swanson, a player who should be breaking out on the world’s stage right now. Starting keeper Naeher is with the US and forward Matthews is with Jamaica. How the Current overcomes the likely absence of both Cooper and Kizer will be the big question, but if some of the aforementioned players are able to return from injury, that will definitely help.
6/14/23 – Kansas City 4:0 Chicago (Challenge Cup)
4/15/23 – Chicago 4:2 Kansas City
One thing seems certain—this match will likely include goals being scored. In the regular season, Chicago and KC have allowed the most goals of any teams (33 and 26 respectively) and Chicago has conceded an additional 10 in Challenge Cup play. Interestingly, they’ve yet to score in this competition, whereas KC has netted 11 through four matches. Hopefully those trends continue and the Current provides their fans another moment of joy in this largely forgettable year.