NWSL Challenge Cup Semifinal
Who: Kansas City Current vs North Carolina Courage
When: Wednesday, Sep 6th, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. CT
Where: Children’s Mercy Park| Kansas City
Watch: CBS Sports Network (Jacqui Oakley, Lori Lindsey)
Listen: KC Current Radio on the Kansas City Current app
The Kansas City Current (4-1-1, 13 pts.) host the defending champion North Carolina Courage (3-1-2, 11 pts.) in the semifinal round of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup. The Current are the number two seed after winning the Central Division and the Courage topped the Eastern Division. The victor will face the winner of the other semifinal between OL Reign and Racing Louisville.
This is a rematch of the 2022 Challenge Cup semifinal that the NC Courage won 2-1 in Kansas City before advancing to beat the Washington Spirit in the final. The Courage took a 2-0 lead against the Current in a downpour with goals by Debinha (now with Kansas City) and Diana Ordóñez (now with Houston). Kristin Hamilton scored late to make it close for the Current but they could not level the match.
The two teams have faced each other twice this year in the regular season with each side taking a 1-0 victory at home. The Current lost at North Carolina in the first match of the new season while they were still missing many of their new players. The Current took the win in June when Hamiton was assisted by Debinha for the lone goal.
These two teams are familiar with each other. The Current’s Hamilton, Debinha and Hailie Mace have all played with the Courage in the recent past.
Current head coach Caroline Sjöblom is making use of some of that inside knowledge, especially with Brazilian star Debinha’s inside information from just last season. “It feels very good because Debinha knows a lot of secrets of North Carolina and she knows about their weaknesses. So we have been using Debinha’s brain for this game because she knows the small details. So it’s feels very good to have her in our team,” Sjöblom stated.
A bit of a wild card is Current midfielder Claire Lavogez. The French attacker came off a long injury (320 days) last match and did her best to lift the team onto her back. After so long off the question is how much will she be available. Coach Sjöblom said, “She has a lot left in the tank to give, she has had a good recovery.” While is would be doubtful for her to start, it seems that she could see significant time. With the match going to penalties if tied at the end of regulation, there is no worry she could be out there for an unexpected amount of time.
If the Current win… They need to make it count!
If Kansas City wins, the final will be in Kansas City at 11:30 CT regardless of the result in the other semi-final. The Reign are the higher seed but if they win the match would take place at their opponent.
The Current have their best chance to win their first hardware. They came close last year, making it to the semifinal of the Challenge Cup and the NWSL final but coming up short both times.
This roster is much deeper than last season, but it has been hampered by long (and we do mean long) term injuries to returning players and new signings as well. Add in the mysterious coaching change early in the season, a work-in-progress change in playing style under the interim coach and the Current have struggled with any consistency.
With the regular season playoffs looking increasingly like a dream, the Current will be all in on these two games. Win and get a trophy, get a nice bonus check and have a positive for the season.
Lose and the team, the players, the staff, the ownership will be looking for the new stadium bump next season.
Kansas City Current
Vanessa DiBernardo (concussion)
Hanna Glas (D45 – knee)
Morgan Gautrat (concussion)
Claire Lavogez (SEI – knee)
Sam Mewis (SEI – knee)
Desiree Scott (D45 – knee)
Jordan Silkowitz (hand)
Mallory Weber (SEI – knee)
Notes: Scott participated in warmups and some limited non-contact practice. DiBernardo practiced in a non-contact role. Glas was undergoing testing and could be close to practicing,
Emily Gray (SEI – knee)
Rikako Kobayashi (knee)
Clara Robbins (SEI – achilles)
Meredith Speck (SEI – right knee)
Estelle Johnson (lower leg)
Katelyn Rowland (thigh)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kansas City Current attackers Debinha and Kristen Hamilton– The talented Brazilian and the feisty American are tied at 12 for goals in Challenge Cup play. Debinha is always a threat but Hamilton seems to thrive in Cup play with the most in a single Challenge Cup season and the only hat-trick in the Challenge Cup.
NC Courage attacker Kerolin – Another talented Brazilian, scored in the 2022 final (assisted by Debinha) and looking to wipe the memory of the World Cup with success.
Referee: Anya Voigt
Assistant Referees: Mike Nickerson,
4th Official: Laura Rodriguez
VAR: Shawn Tehini
AVAR: Benjamin Wooten