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Kansas City Current Remain Unbeaten at Gotham

The Kansas City Current sorta spoil the ring ceremony at the NJ/NY Gotham home opener on the back of Temwa Chawinga.



Photo Credit: KC Current/NWSL

The Current headed northeast with a chance to further validate their early season successes as they matched up against the defending NWSL Champions, NJ/NY Gotham FC. Things have thus far looked dramatically different for KC as compared to one year ago when, three matches into the season, results were so poor that the team let go of its manager. Fast forward twelve months and the Current are alone in first place, the only team not to drop any points and setting a record pace for goal scoring. Would that momentum continue on Sunday against not just the reigning champs but a squad that now employs a whole slew of US national teamers?

This promised to be a game of contrasting styles as Kansas City has been winning shootouts (11 goals for, 7 against) and Gotham had scored one and conceded just two goals in three competitive matches thus far. While star attacker Debinha is still working her way back from injury, it seemed unlikely that Gotham would be able to completely contain KC’s potent attack, especially considering the form that exciting new additions Bia and Chawinga have been in. Conversely, would the Current’s backline be able to hold up against their star-studded opponents, especially on corner kicks where they’ve been painfully vulnerable?

Joining Debinha (and Glas, Prince, & Weber) on the injury report was the surprise addition of team captain (and heart and soul) Lo Labonta. The Current have proven their depth so far, but it’s never easy to adjust to the absence of one of your primary contributors. Slotting in to Labonta’s spot in the midfield was Bayley Feist, earning her first minutes with the team. In positive injury news, though, both Mace and Cooper were available for selection.

Early in the game, former Current ‘keeper Cassie Miller played Bane to Chawinga’s Batman (Poison Ivy to her Batgirl?) when her kick save prevented the Malawi international from opening the scoring after she outraced Gotham’s entire backline and poked a shot towards the near post.

The reprieve for the dark knights was short lived, though, as the aforementioned Bia and Chawinga combined on the opening tally with a beautiful goal that really showcased some of their strengths. Following a Gotham corner, Bia muscled her way onto the ball and raced through the center of the pitch. As all the defenders’ eyes focused on the Brazilian, a different player in red sped by everyone as if operating with a whole other set of gears. Clearly, KC’s new attacking pair have started to grow accustomed to playing together and Bia knew just when to flick the ball forward to where only her teammate could get it. In her second one-on-one opportunity with Miller, Temwa wouldn’t be denied as she chipped it in to the top of the net.

That 17th minute goal would prove to be the only score of the half, though there were a few other moments of excitement. Gotham nearly evened it in the 22nd minute after a long throw-in eventually found Stengel mere feet from goal. Her shot was saved by Franch off her upper chest and the rebound attempt sailed high. Gotham’s next best chance came in the 40th minute when Franch stretched out to deny a blistering strike from distance destined for the back of the net.

Kansas City had more pressure and shots (7-4) in the first half but Gotham grew into the match and after bringing on Nighswonger and Dunn they created multiple chances right after the break. Franch (and the crossbar) temporarily maintained KC’s led as AD pinned the ball right on the line. Unfortunately, NJ’s onslaught continued and in the 51st minute they took advantage of KC’s Achille’s heel with Esther left completely open on a corner to nod the ball in.

Sensing an opening, Gotham brought in (another former Current) Lynn Williams as she returned from injury. Kansas City countered with three attack-minded substitutions, bringing in Mace, Lavogez, and Cooper (making her season debut). The match turned into an even more end-to-end affair with both teams creating chances, but also not wanting to make the defining error. Newcomer Feist flashed her potential as she got her laces through a shot that forced Miller into a reaction save over the bar.

Late in the second, the Current lost their speedy goal scorer when Chawinga went down with what hopefully were just severe leg cramps. She was replaced by 16-year-old Pfeiffer who nearly connected with Cooper in stoppage time for the game-winner only for Miller to race off her line and smother the ball just before Cooper reached it. On the other end, KC fans held their breath as Gotham were granted a free kick in the seventh minute (of six suggested minutes) of stoppage time. The ensuing free kick ended up with a blast off Lavogez’s face that would have been out for a corner except the official blew the final whistle (much to the consternation of the Gotham coach).

So, in the end, Kansas City dropped points for the first time this season, but remain undefeated with a 1-1 road draw. This felt like a fair result as the Current were the more dangerous team in the first 45 but Gotham could have easily scored multiple times after intermission. Kansas City stays in first place and getting a point on the road against the champs (on the night they hung the banner) is certainly a positive result.

The Current didn’t live up to their 3+ goals per match average, but a pattern does seem to be emerging with the majority of their goals coming at home (9 at home, 3 on the road). The team didn’t appear too rusty after the international break and get to return to the friendly confines of CPKC stadium next Saturday in an inaugural match with Alex Loera’s new squad, Bay FC.

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