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KC Current Roster Musings

Following another impressive victory Friday night, the KC Current sit alone in 1st place. Is their roster built to sustain this run?



Credit: Thad Bell

For starters, apologies to my son for nearly injuring him with my overly enthusiastic high-fives after the initial Lavogez goal Friday night. I let my excitement get the better of me, but that’s easy to do with this team. Yes, it’s only 23% of the way through the regular season, but the Kansas City Current remain undefeated (only two points short of taking the maximum through six matches) and just keep scoring goals.

In the KC Soccer Journal’s match preview last week, we discussed the difference in form for the team when home as opposed to on the road, and yet they answered some of those questions this weekend in Los Angeles against a side riding a two-game win streak. The team has now swept the season series against the angelic folk and turns its attention to the lowly Houston Dash (poor CeCe Kizer). Let’s take a look at the roster and reflect on this latest performance and what went right and what could still be improved upon.


Starting in the very back, we have AD Franch with an absolute stranglehold on the goalkeeper spot. Yes, the team has yet to earn a clean sheet, but that’s not the fault of the veteran in yellow. The past two seasons Franch has struggled somewhat out of the gate which has led to splitting time with Cassie Miller (now the starting netminder for Gotham).

Not this year. In fact, chances are that if Franch had performed this well at the beginning of the 2023 season, she would have remained on the USWNT roster for the World Cup. Chants of “That’s our keeper” ringing out around CPKC Stadium are well earned at least a couple times per match. This season could be looking a lot different if not for the regular heroics of the two-time NWSL goalie of the year.

The team has Jordan Silkowitz and Hope Hisey as backups at this spot, but unless KC chooses to rest Franch for some of the other competitions coming up this summer, I don’t anticipate either seeing much of the field.


Here is the spot on the field with, probably, the most lingering question marks. To this point, only center back Gabrielle Robinson has been a consistent presence in the lineup. Rookie Ellie Wheeler had played every minute up until the start of the second half Friday night and Elizabeth Ball had partnered with Robinson in the middle before being replaced by Stine Ballisager Pedersen to begin the game in LA.

Hailie Mace and Izzy Rodriguez have alternated holding down the left back spot, but they were both on the field over the final 45 Friday. Regan Steigleder has made a couple of second half substitution appearances and Lauren has yet to enter a match. Mallory Weber and Hanna Glas are still working their way back from season-ending injuries.

There has been a lot of mixing and matching, a lot of different lineups and in-game adjustments. In fact, one of Vlatko’s regular strategies when holding a lead late is to bring on extra defenders–usually Stine Ballisager for someone like Bia. One of Steigleder’s appearances has also fallen into this category as well.

What should be the plan moving forward? Honestly, I’m not sure. For five games it looked like Ball and Robinson had the starting spots in the middle secured, but that changed this weekend. It’s no secret that the Current have especially struggled defending corner kicks as 5 of the 11 goals they’ve conceded have come from corners. It’s possible that Stine Ballisager replacing Ball helped with that, but the Dane was perhaps most at fault on the one goal the team did give up to Angel City.

She’s barely a speedbump on this play. I coach my daughter’s U13 team and I’m always getting on them to not stab at the ball or overcommit on defense and yet the World Cup veteran does just that in becoming part of Emslie’s highlight. Would this game have played out any differently with Ball playing? Would the team have conceded more? Less? A corner kick goal?

Ball dealt with injuries in 2023, but once she returned, she seemed to stabilize the defense. Robinson is still just a second-year player, but on a team that employs league vet Ball and two players with World Cup experience, it’s interesting that she seems to be the most trusted center back option right now.

On the outside of the defensive formation, there seems to be a four-player rotation emerging. Wheeler, Mace, and Rodriguez have all started multiple matches and Steigleder has the coach’s confidence to at least help see out victories. It’s telling that Vlatko inserted Mace to pair with Rodriguez on the flanks with the team chasing the game in the second half Friday. This likely means that he thinks of that pair as having the most attacking potential.

And the halftime switch worked. Mace was confident on the ball and helped the team press high up the field and it was Rodriguez who assisted on the game-winning goal. My guess is that Wheeler will continue to be the right-side starter (though she did miss a golden chance with a free header feet in front of an open goal) but may give way to Mace/Rodriguez should the team need more offense. With that said, Glas is reported to be in full training and brings a strong pedigree of her own and may supplant Wheeler on that side of the field.


While the team’s formation often feels fluid, they generally line up in a 4-3-3 with a triangle in the center of the pitch. One thing is set in stone right now; Vanessa DiBernardo is the starter at the top of that triangle. In a lot of ways, she’s been the engine that has made the team go and has seven goal contributions on the season. Her golazo sparked the comeback in SoCal–for everyone watching the game it was obvious that 54th minute strike pushed the momentum fully in Kansas City’s direction.

Sitting just behind her in the formation has been teenage Claire Hutton and then either Lo LaBonta or (when Lo is injured) Bayley Feist. Desi Scott you may ask? Well, she’s healthy and made her season debut in the 92nd minute back on March 30 but hasn’t seen the field since. We may be witnessing the passing of the torch as historically key figures for this team such as Scott and Hamilton (who wasn’t even on the bench Friday) fall down the depth chart. It’s definitely a comfort to have this type of veteran leadership on the practice pitch and in the locker room, and they will be there should injuries strike, but the young’uns and the newcomers appear to be solidly positioned ahead of them.

The biggest question in the midfield is who gets most of the play time as the team continues to get healthier. Debinha remains the most high-profile member of the team and yet due to injury, she’s only played 49 minutes this season. Despite this the team is undefeated and four points clear of second place. As she returns to fully match fit, where does she slot in? As I said above, DiBernardo is not ceding her starting spot, but that attacking midfield role is where Debinha most naturally fits in. Perhaps the team inverts the midfield triangle with Hutton or LaBonta in a more singular defensive role (interestingly, that’s Scott’s best spot). Or, more likely, Debinha occupies one of the wings on the front line.

Claire Lavogez (Friday’s hero) is also naturally an attacking midfielder, but slotted in to the #9 when she came on this weekend. She became the 11th different goal scorer on the season and provided something distinct from the other attackers in her willingness to always be in the six as the team pushed the ball forward. She nearly had an insane goal as she wrapped her leg around a defender to connect with a cross. But that just proved to be a precursor to her two tallies late as both came by her fighting for space in the box and redirecting crosses/shots. Lavogez is a creative midfielder, but also showed she can poach (an important job regardless of the slightly negative connotation) which may prove invaluable to this team.


As you can tell from the above paragraphs, there is a pretty blurry line between midfielders and attackers with this team. DiBernardo, Debinha, and Lavogez are all listed as midfielders but are as key to the attack as any of the strikers on the squad.

With that said, there are two newbies to the team that have cemented their spots on the front line. Bia Zaneratto and Temwa Chawinga are taking this league by storm. Neither had their most impactful games this Friday, but they still played important roles as Bia was credited with an assist on DiBernardo’s goal and Chawinga did all the work in the buildup to Lavogez’s final strike. The pair continue to establish a rapport that may become simply unstoppable. Bia’s strength, Chawinga’s speed, Bia’s vision, Chawinga’s finishing… Angel City’s Sarah Gorden is one of the fastest defenders in the league and yet there were a couple of moments that showed even she can’t keep up with Chawinga.

To this point in the season, Alexa Spaanstra has been the other starting attacker. She’s had her moments (including getting on the end of a beautiful DiBernardo cross for her first goal of the season last month), but she’s not yet in the same category as the other forwards we’ve discussed.

Again, I think the most likely starting lineup moving forward will have Chawinga, Bia, and Debinha across the top. Additionally, I wonder if Cooper may soon supplant Spaanstra in the pecking order. It’s true that Cooper may not have fully lived up to her draft spot, but her insertion into the match at halftime helped KC be on the front foot. She has a quickness and physicality (she’s never met a challenge she doesn’t like) that can absolutely be assets. Going back to the Bay FC game, she made a lot of runs that opened up the space for Bia and Chawinga to get behind the defense.

Kristen Hamilton and Alex Pfeiffer both scored in the first match of the season, but it’s been the 16-year-old (not the 32-year-old) that has continued to find minutes off the bench. This team is as healthy as it’s been in years and getting more so. Offseason acquisition Nichelle Prince is close to returning which further crowds this team’s attacking options. My guess is that if you were to survey 10 ardent fans, you’d have nearly 10 different suggestions for a starting lineup. As long as he can keep everyone happy, it’s one of those good problems for Andonovski.

The Coach

Speaking of the coach, I give him credit for using his bench. I don’t think I would go into quite the defensive shell he adopts when he brings on a center back for a striker late in games, but I do appreciate his willingness to make in-game adjustments. Long stretches of the first half were rough for the Current in Los Angeles. The goal they conceded came at the end of several minutes of sustained pressure from Angel City. They couldn’t get the ball up the field, their midfield was being overwhelmed and the defense was just in desperation mode.

At halftime Vlatko swapped out his left winger and right back. Eighteen minutes later her brought on Lavogez to be a completely different style #9. Ten minutes after that he used his final two subs to reshape the midfield, bringing on Lo and Debinha. That’s right, Vlatko used his full complement of subs with nearly 20 minutes remaining. Imagine having the luxury to introduce someone like Debinha when Angel City are starting to run out of gas. These changes completely shifted the game’s narrative, and it was Debinha who found Rodriguez for the game-winning assist.

The Current were tested Friday night. For the first time this season, they went into halftime trailing and were thoroughly outplayed for long stretches of the first 45. But a soccer match is 90 minutes and through a combination of a deep bench, tactical changes, and a powerful belief that they’re capable of scoring, the Current departed the City of Angels with another multi-goal victory. KC will probably lose at some point this year, but my son is already investing in protective gear for the next onslaught of celebratory high-fives.

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