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Match Preview: KC Current at Portland Thorns FC

With a rested Sophia Smith ready to punish any mistakes, the Current head northwest to tangle with their old nemesis, the Portland Thorns.

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Credit: Thad Bell

When the Chicago Red Stars found the late equalizer Friday night in KC, it was safe to assume that the Kansas City Current’s spot atop the league standings wouldn’t last through the rest of the weekend. But sometimes soccer is a funny sport and five of the seven matches played in the NWSL Fri-Sun ended in a draw (it would have been six of seven if not for an 89th minute winner from our old friend Kate Del Fava Sunday night). The top four teams coming into the weekend all ended their respective matches on level terms which means Kansas City gets to start another week in first place.

Whether they can stay there will be largely determined by a trip to the Pacific northwest.

Thanks to their 0-0 draw on Sunday in Seattle, the Portland Thorns slipped from 4th to 5th in the table. Prior to that match, though, Portland had been on a tear, winning seven of eight. The Current have already, memorably, defeated the Thorns once this season, knocking them off 5-4 in the inaugural match at CPKC Stadium. Portland’s defense has done a better job of locking things down of late, conceding just six times in the previous nine matches. Will Goalkeeper Hogan and her defense maintain that level of play against KC’s relentless attack?

On the flip side, the Kansas City backline will have their hands full with a Portland team that has scored 25 times through 13 matches. Their attack, of course, is led by Sophia Smith who currently leads the Golden Boot race with nine goals scored (one ahead of Temwa Chawinga). Smith should be well rested after serving a one game suspension for some amusing antics while on the bench a couple weeks ago.

That’s a second yellow for time wasting that became a red that led to her missing the Cascadia showdown (in which Portland was shutout). The story gets extra odd when Portland decided to appeal the red card and it nearly cost Smith another game–which would have been this Sunday’s against KC.

Regardless, Smith and the rest of the thorny attack should be ready to go against a Current defense that has a troubling tendency of allowing goals against the run of play and off set pieces. There hasn’t been a single match this season in which KC has been outshot or hasn’t had the better chances, and yet the team has had to settle for draws in five of their 13 games, including twice in the last four when they held a lead entering the 90th minute. Figuring out a way to stymie the Portland attack and take advantage of their opportunities moving forward will be paramount.

There was a curious flurry of rumors surrounding the team earlier this week when word came out that Swedish international attacker Kosovare Asllani is considering a move to the NWSL and is being courted by KC and San Diego. Hers would not seem to be a position of need for the squad as many strikers and attacking midfielders struggle to even see the field because of the depth the team has. Additionally, Kansas City has twice plucked from the Swedish team for roster pieces recently, coming away with Hanna Glas and Mimmi Larsson. The verdict is still out on Glas as she will hopefully be fit enough to play soon, but the Larsson experiment lasted only one season. Coach Andonovski seemed to agree with some of these sentiments when asked about this possible signing:

This match marks the teams’ 14th of the season, officially entering the second half of the schedule. Any “small sample size” worries have long since disappeared as Kansas City, and especially their attack, really are that good. If the second half of the year is a carbon copy of the first half, the Current will end with 16 wins, 10 draws, zero losses, 58 points, and 66 goals scored. The league record for points in a season is 57 and for goals scored in a season is 54. In other words, they continue to be on a record pace.

And, most importantly, if everything continues to play out this way, KC will almost assuredly end in first place.

WHEN: Sunday, June 23 at 3:00 PM (Central Time)

WHERE: Providence Park in Portland, OR

HOW TO WATCH: Paramount+/YouTube/38 The Spot

Record:

KC Current: 8-5-0 (29 points, 1st place)

Portland Thorns FC: 7-2-4 (23 points, 5th place)

Last Match:

KC Current: 2-2 home draw to the Chicago Red Stars

Portland Thorns FC: 0-0 away draw to the Seattle Reign FC

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