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KC Current lose Challenge Cup semifinal in stoppage time



Photo Credit: Thad Bell | KC Soccer Journal

A trip to the UKG NWSL Challenge Cup Final was on the line tonight as the Kansas City Current hosted the North Carolina Courage at Children’s Mercy Park. With playoff hopes essentially over for the Current, this was a significant game and something meaningful to play for in 2023. A win for both teams would give them an opportunity to host the final on Saturday,  facing the winner of OL Reign vs. Racing Louisville FC.

Starting XI

First half highlight. Slow half, after all.

It was a much slower game for both sides, but the Current spent a significant amount defending against the Courage’s high press while struggling to connect passes and maintaining possession when they had the ball. In the 14th minute, the Courage’s Manaka Matsukubo could have given the Courage the 1-0 lead, with a left-footed shot from outside the box as she was given plenty of space, but it missed wide.

The Courage had plenty of chances: 5 shots, 2 on goals, capitalizing on the Current’s mistakes, but at the half, the score remained 0-0. The Current had 0 shots on goal at the end of the first half, and 32% possession compared to the Courage’s 68% control of the ball.

Second half heartbreak. Well, in stoppage time…

Whatever was said at halftime in the Current locker room seemed to work because the Current changed the momentum of their offense, getting 3 shots, 2 on goal in the 15 minutes of the second half, and they could have taken the lead, with Hailie Mace, Alex Spaanstra, and Michelle Cooper each having opportunities.

But the Courage quickly countered, and the Current found themselves defending in the box against Tess Boade and Kerolin, but Gabby Robinson came up big to poke the ball away from Boade and keep the game at 0-0. The Current had a golden opportunity in the 81st minute after a corner kick. Kate Del Fava jumped for the header, colliding with goalkeeper Casey Murphy, leaving the net just guarded by a group of Courage defenders, and it was enough to keep the ball out of the net as Michelle Cooper took a shot.

As the game looked to go to straight to penalty kicks, by the rules of the Challenge Cup, a struggle in the Current’s box allowed the Courage to make the attempts they needed to take the lead. And they did in the 96th minute as Kansas City defenders failed to cleared the ball away.

Brianna Pinto’s shot found the back of the net, ending the Current’s hopes for hosting the final and winning the Challenge Cup. For the second year in a row, the Courage won a semifinal against the Current at Children’s Mercy Park.

And that pretty much wraps up 2023 hopes and glory for the Current. Thank u, 2023. Next.


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