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KC Current clinch UKG Challenge Cup Central Division title with 3-0 win



Photo: Thad Bell | KC Soccer Journal

The Kansas City Current hosted Racing Louisville in the final group game of the UKG NWSL Challenge Cup at Children’s Mercy Park, with the Central Division title on the line. With a win, the Current could clinch the division’s first place and a spot in the Challenge Cup semifinals. Kansas City would need to bounce back from their 0-0 draw last week at the Chicago Red Stars against an opponent that has given trouble all of 2023. The Current were 0-3 in all competitions in 2023 against Racing Louisville.

Starting XI

First half highlights

The Current began the game strong, taking an early lead in the 3rd minute. With Kristen Hamilton taking the ball up center, she found a pass to Cece Kizer, who was making a run. But Kizer was well-defended once she took control of the ball. Hamilton, wide open, called for the ball and took a shot on goal, and ultimately, a goal for the Current. The goal marked Hamilton’s fourth of the Challenge Cup, making her the scoring leader for 2023 so far, and her 11th goal overall, putting her 1 goal away from tying the record of 12 goals, which is held by Debinha.

With the Current unable to extend the lead to 2 despite a few opportunities, Louisville nearly equalized in the 22nd minute with a header beating goalkeeper Adrianna Franch as Carson Pickett tried a through ball, but Abby Erceg was caught offside, and the Current maintained their lead at 1-0.

Louisville would again have an opportunity to equalize with another goal in stoppage time, but it was again called off by the sideline referee who signaled offside. The call was confirmed by VAR, and the teams headed into halftime with the Current maintaining the 1-0 lead, one half away from winning the Central Division.

Second half highlights

For the second half, Hailie Mace replaced Alexa Spaanstra, taking her position up top with Hamilton and Michelle Cooper. For Louisville, as KC put pressure early in the second half, Racing’s Taylor Aylmer committed her second foul at the top of the box, earning her another yellow card. She had already received a yellow card in the 45th minute and was ejected from the game. It would be an advantage to Kansas City as Louisville played with 10 players. Louisville would collect 5 cards for the evening.

With KC appearing to slow the attack, one more opportunity would lead to the second goal in the 80th minute with Kristen Hamilton once again scoring for the evening, her 5th overall of the 2023 Challenge Cup. The goal would also put her at the top of the all-time list of Challenge Cup goals alongside Debinha with 12, and most career NWSL Challenge Cup goals with a single club (10).

But the Current would not be finished as Hailie Mace sent a right-footed shot from outside the box to the top right corner for the third goal of the evening, officially sealing the victory and the 2023 UKG Challenge Cup Central Division title for Kansas City for the second year.

The Current would have to wait for the result of the OL Reign versus Portland game on Sunday to determine their opponent and the location. The semifinal is set of Wednesday, September 6th. The Current have a chance to host the semifinal with an OL Reign loss.

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