The Kansas City Current are starting their 2023 regular season slate of games this Saturday when they kick off the entire National Women’s Soccer League season on the road against the North Carolina Courage. At 1:00 PM CT, the league starts on Paramount Plus or you can head to Power and Light for the official watch party at Johnny’s Tavern (watch party starts at noon).
Before the ladies can take the field and attempt to better their runner-up performance in the NWSL Cup, there are some things you should know.
New Stars to Watch For
Despite a successful, deep playoff run, the KC Current didn’t rest on their laurels. They went and re-stocked, bringing back only 14 players and adding ten new ones, including some big stars.
The team added five draft picks, including number two overall selection Michelle Cooper, who has to be an early favorite for rookie of the year. They also added several free agents and some international talent. The first big announcements of the offseason were the signings of Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo from the Chicago Red Stars before they rocked the league by adding one of the best women’s players in the world in Brazilian superstar Debinha.
Despite all the additions, there are some subtractions. Lynn Williams, who missed all of 2022, was traded to NJ/NY Gotham as a part of the deal to select Cooper. They also lost Kristen Edmonds to free agency and traded away last year’s first round pick forward Elyse Bennett.
Former Courage Players Facing North Carolina
The KC Current roster is weirdly stacked with players from the North Carolina Courage. Some of them came over in trades, while the aforementioned Debinha was signed away this offseason in free agency.
Other former players from North Carolina include Kristen Hamilton and Hailie Mace, who both came over in the trade that sent Amy Rodriguez the other direction. Hard to see the Current as anything but the winners of that trade.
These three are all likely starters if they are healthy and could look to contribute greatly against their former team, if they are available (more on that below).
What Injured Players Will be Available?
Speaking of injuries, there are a few running through the KC Current as well. We already knew about the Sam Mewis injury and Claire Lavogez tore her ACL in the playoffs last season and isn’t expected back until the middle of the year at the soonest. Additionally, Mallory Weber is still listed on the injury report after missing all of last season (this all sounds so familiar with Kansas City soccer).
However, there are other concerns. The KC Star’s Daniel Sperry noticed a lot of missing players in training this week, including: Morgan Gautrat, Vanessa DiBernardo, Hanna Glas (she just arrived and we knew she’d be unavailable), Debinha and Kristen Hamilton.
When he asked head coach Matt Potter about things, it doesn’t sound overly optimistic.
Not mentioned in this report is Desiree Scott, who had offseason knee surgery and won’t be ready to start the season either.
What Formation will the Current Play?
This is something I’ve been pondering all offseason, so much so that I wrote an entire article with several formation possibilities. With so many of these new midfielders missing, I think it’s highly likely, at least in week one, we see the same formation we saw for much of last year. I’m calling it a 3-4-1-2, but it’s functionally a back five in defense and that midfield is a bit fluid.
If all the players above are missing, here is my best guess as to who roles out on opening day, which a less than ideal starting lineup, but still pretty close to what would have been available last year when this team went all the way to the NWSL finals.
I wouldn’t completely rule out Mace playing that more attacking midfield role (or a winger role if the formation changes), dropping Lo’ deeper in the midfield and starting Izzy Rodriguez out wide left. Also, it’s possible rookie CB Gabby Robinson has impressed enough to earn a starting spot. The midfield is very thin though if DiBernardo, Gautrat and Debinha are all unavailable, which has me guessing Loera plays the more defensive midfielder role instead of center back.
Another possibility with all the forwards this team has is that Kizer plays attacking midfield and Cooper or Spaanstra start on the forward line. Despite all the missing players, there are still plenty of options. And of course, some of the missing players could still be available and just not been in practice the day of the above observations.
No matter what formation this team runs out and who is available to play, I think the Current will be contenders in 2023, and more so if all these new signings and a few of the new draft picks hit.