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Kizer, Franch Play Heroes as the KC Current Win 1-0

KC Current earn a hard-fought victory over the OL Reign on a Cece Kizer goal and an AD Franch PK save in Kansas City.



Credit: Thad Bell

The Kansas City Current took the field for the first time in a regular season match since July 7th and for the first time overall since August 5th when they defeated Louisville 3-0 and secured a spot in the Challenge Cup semifinals. They came into the match desperately needing to earn maximum points as they sat in last place, six points out of the final playoff spot.

The most noteworthy elements of this game pre-kickoff were who was not available for OL Reign. Not only is Jess Fishlock (2021 league MVP) still recovering from an injury, but all five of the Reign’s USWNT contingent, including Lavelle and Rapino, did not make the trip to KC. Meanwhile, the Current did get to welcome back to the pitch their own World Cup star in Debinha. Of course, Kansas City does still have plenty of injury absences, as has been the case all year, and their two newest signings are not yet with the squad. Regardless, the Reign are perennially one of the best squads in the league, the defending Supporter’s Shield winners and just two points out of first place in the league. So, perhaps, the schedule makers did KC a favor with the timing of this match as almost certainly Seattle will field a much different (stronger) team next weekend against Angel City.

Also, potentially of note, these two squads finished first and second after the group stage of the Challenge Cup and so will, quite possibly, be soon meeting in the title match of that competition with $1,000,000 on the line.

The first half of this match likely wouldn’t have won over many casual fans to the sport of soccer. It wasn’t necessarily ugly, but there also weren’t many exciting moments. #TealRising had a bit more of the possession and eventually outshot the visitors, but the best chance of the half fell to Del Fava, a player with a lot of talents and one career goal to her name, but not someone know for rippling the net.

The second half started much the same, but substitute Cece Kizer made sure the record crowd of over thirteen thousand would have something to cheer about. In the 61st minute, Rodriguez took a throw-in 20 yards from the corner flag. Debinha received the ball and sent it right back to Izzy who placed a beautiful cross into the six. KC had three bodies near the ball, and it was the onrushing Kizer who got a head to it just in front of her defender and stuck it neatly into the bottom corner of the goal.

While that would prove to be the only scoring of the match, the final half hour (plus!) definitely had further moments of excitement. With the Reign starting to maintain some pressure, a pass was sent over and through the KC defense. The ball bounced harmlessly out of play, untouched by anyone, but Huitema sat in the middle of the box, emoting dramatically that she’d been wronged. Apparently, VAR took notice as there was a long stoppage of play and then review. (Curiously, the center official interrupted her own video review to run back across the field, break up a mild scrum, and award three yellows. It looked as though Quinn worried that Franch was scuffing up the PK spot.) After the two-part review, a penalty kick was awarded to the Reign as Cooper was judged to have shoved Huitema in the back. In fairness, Michelle did shove her in what can perhaps be chalked up to a bit of youthful inexperience for the rookie, though the action did take place well away from the ball. Franch, already amped up from the drama of it all, the battle with Quinn, the receipt of a card, funneled her energy into guessing correctly and easily stopping Huitema’s rather poorly taken kick.

Kansas City seemed to ease back into control of the match following the monumental save and didn’t panic when 10 minutes of stoppage time was announced (they ended up playing 12). Debinha even looked to put the game away with a 40-yard sprint, getting behind the defense and dribbling just into the 18. The scoreboard operator was almost certainly in the process of putting a 2 up next to the home team when the Brazilian star placed her curing shot just wide of the far post. That miss almost came back to haunt the Current when, after 100+ minutes of flawless goalkeeping, Franch gave the ball away, 30 yards from goal and right in the center of the pitch. Fortunately, OL didn’t know what to do with the unexpected gift and never really got another shot off.

The final whistle blew with AD cradling the ball in her arms and the smile that spread across her face could be felt around the stadium. With the win, KC leaped two teams and are just 3 points behind the Wave for sixth place. They are level on points with the Houston Dash, the team they travel to face next weekend. A win there and the team and its fans can really start dreaming.

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