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Match Preview: KC Current at Utah Royals

After a history of franchises folding and relocating between Kansas City and Salt Lake City, the Current and the Royals finally get to square off in an NWSL match Saturday night.

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Credit: Thad Bell

You know that old question of whether it’s better to be lucky or good? Well, it feels rather like Kansas City’s last match was an experiment to test that. The Current were the “good” team and Racing Louisville was definitely “lucky.”

The evidence? Kansas City had significantly more (20 to 8) and better shots and lived for long stretches of the game in Racing’s defensive third. On the flipside, Louisville notched one goal thanks to a “shross” (a cross that became a shot when it drifted over Franch and into the corner of the goal), one goal that was actually an own goal off of Stine Ballisager (the jury is still out on the best back four for KC), and one goal that came 13 minutes into an announced eight minutes of stoppage time.

So, the result of this experiment? A 3-3 draw that felt a lot like a loss for the Current. It’s good to be lucky (and bad to be unlucky–as evidenced by the KC goal that was disallowed for offsides).

Last weekend’s match continued a recent and somewhat worrying pattern of the Current dominating matches only to walk away with ties. Three of the past four matches have finished level and in each one KC was the demonstrably better team in every way except the score.

Probably not coincidentally, this stretch has coincided with an injury to Bia that has kept her off the field for a full month. Before she went down, Bia and Chawinga were forming an almost unstoppable tandem in the attack leading to a record of five wins and one draw. Since her injury, though, the team has one win and three draws and has scored more than a single goal in a match only once. And the latest reports suggest that Bia won’t be back ready to play until after the upcoming international break, meaning she likely will not be available this weekend in Sandy, Utah.

The good news? This would seem to be a match that Kansas City should be able to handle even in Bia’s absence. This expansion season hasn’t been kind thus far to the Utah Royals. The team sits in last place with just one win and four points collected through ten matches. They are currently on a four-match losing streak and their single victory on the season came all the way back on March 22nd. In that win, former Kansas City Current defender Kate Del Fava became the team’s first goal-scorer.

Speaking of Del Fava, here’s to hoping she avoids some of the bad luck that has found other recently departed fan-favorites. Alex Loera tore her ACL in her return to KC and Cece Kizer was out with a concussion when the Current visited Houston.

Even as this will be the first ever NWSL match between Kansas City and Utah, they have an interesting shared history. At the end of the 2017 season, Utah became an expansion team but also received the rights to all of FC Kansas City’s players as that previous version of KC’s NWSL team folded. Then, just a few years later, the exact same thing happened in reverse as Kansas City was granted an “expansion” team but earned the rights to the Utah roster. In fact, Lo LaBonta was a member of FCKC, then Utah, then the Current while never actually changing squads. Similarly, Del Fava was drafted by the previous version of Utah, became a Current, and then returned to Utah this offseason (to help earn KC protection from Utah in the expansion draft).

So, what does this all mean for Saturday night’s matchup on the, somewhat controversial, America First Field? Likely more of the same for both teams. Utah comes in having scored the fewest goals (6) and carrying the worst goal differential (-13) of any team in the league. KC is just the opposite, having scored the most goals (25) and boasting the best goal differential (+10). Add to this the fact that last weekend saw the 13th and 14th different¬†goal scorers (tying the NWSL season record) for the Current and it would be mildly shocking if this game in Utah didn’t feature a relentless attack from the teal and the Royals parking the bus, doing whatever they can to limit the damage.

This is the final match weekend before a mini-international break that sees the Current off until a home fixture with Seattle on June 9th. Thanks to their recent string of draws, the Current have fallen from the top spot in the league standings. Earning a positive result against the cellar dwelling Royals feels important to enter the break with momentum and springboard the team into the summer months.

*An interesting note of this upcoming break is that Hanna Glas has been called up to the Swedish national team. As a reminder, Glas was signed by KC as one of the best fullbacks in the world prior to the 2023 season but has yet to actually appear in a match for the Current as she’s dealt with injury and a long recovery process to match fitness. Perhaps some time with Sweden will give her the bump to start making appearances for Kansas City.

WHEN: Saturday, May 25 at 9:00 PM (Central Time)

WHERE: America First Field, Sandy, Utah

HOW TO WATCH: 38 The Spot/ion

Record:

KC Current: 6-4-0 (22 points, 2nd place)

Utah Royals: 1-1-8 (4 points, 14th place)

Last Match:

KC Current: 3-3 draw home to Racing Louisville FC

Utah Royals: 0-1 defeat on the road to North Carolina Courage

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