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The Current Can’t Find Heaven Against Angel City

KC Current fall 0-1 against Angel City in a match that likely boots them from playoff contention.



KC Current fan | Credit: Thad Bell

We’ve hit that time of the year in which every match takes on the added significance of determining which teams do or do not make it into the playoffs. And for the second week in a row, the Kansas City Current matched up with a team just ahead of them in the standings, but also on the outside looking in. Last time out, KC surged ahead of the Houston Dash only to concede a second half equalizer and split the points. Today, a similar result (or worse) wouldn’t do as the Current entered the match five points below the playoff line with only five matches to play. Unfortunately, Angel City matched them for motivation as they came in three points out.

One personnel note for LA, Julie Ertz announced her retirement this week—information that’s only relevant because Ertz picked Angel City in the spring to sign and play a total of nine matches with to gain match fitness prior to joining the USWNT for the World Cup. And on the KC side, the second half of the match saw the introduction of Stine Ballisager and the return of Claire Lavogez. Ballisager was signed to the Current during her World Cup run with Denmark. Lavogez provided a spark for KC when she was signed in the middle of last season, but suffered an ACL tear during Kansas City’s playoff run and hadn’t seen the field since. With these two additions to the lineup, KC is inching closer to a healthy team (though that seems like a silly statement when they still list players like Mewis, Scott, DiBernardo, Glas, and Gautrat on the injury report).

The match started with a lot of energy and chances both directions.  In the 5th minute, Ball reached around her defender and got her boot to a corner kick. The shot just about slipped over the head of LA’s keeper, but Anderson was able to get her hands on it just in time. Then, off a set piece in the middle of the pitch, ACFC lofted a ball into the box that found a mass of humanity towards the back post. Franch made an incredible reaction save off of what may have gone down as an own goal had it gotten passed her. Not to be outdone, Anderson dove to her left to get fingertips to a Hamilton shot destined to tuck just inside the post.

As frenetic as the initial half hour felt, it netted no goals and after that point the match slowed down dramatically. Perhaps the heat got to the players, perhaps it was the pressure, but for one reason or another, much of the rest of the game felt disjointed if not outright sloppy. To the eye test, KC consistently appears more dangerous when playing direct, but for one reason or another they are determined to try to possess and play out of the back. All too often, they get stuck in the midfield or are turned over as soon as the other team decides to press.

Sjöblom made the decision to pull Ball in favor of Ballisager to start the second half. It’s entirely possible that Ballisager and Lauren are the centerback pairing of the future for KC, but it felt like a curious substitution decision in the middle of this key game. Ball’s return from injury this summer has coincided with KC’s improved form and Ballisager’s first 45 with this team was hardly auspicious as the majority of her passes seemed off the mark.

Fittingly, the hero of the match was Spencer, LA’s speedy right back who hustled all over the field and was routinely a nuisance to her opposition. In the 66th minute, she carried the ball into the box, tried to send in a cross that was deflected (into the ARM of Le Bihan) only to have Spencer again run onto the ball and this time get it just through traffic (it may have taken a slight deflection) and past Franch. VAR took a look at the possible handball but decided to allow the goal to stand.

Finding themselves down a goal temporarily lit a fuse under the Current who harassed ACFC’s backline for the better part of the next ten minutes. Cooper sent in a couple dangerous crosses, Debinha found herself more involved and blasted a shot inches wide right, Kizer sprung Mace who nearly got behind the defense, etc. It was exciting only, as has been the case too often this season, it wasn’t enough. And after the ten-minute flurry, much of the rest of the match was an LA clinic on how to kill off a game. For a couple of moments in stoppage time, it again looked like KC had life, only to have it not amount to anything.

On paper, Kansas City has a roster that should be challenging for the Supporter’s Shield, not one point out of the cellar, but matches aren’t played on paper. This team is stacked with individual talent, but only on rare occasions have they really seemed to gel as a unit. Whether it’s Sjöblom or someone else leading this team next season (because let’s not kid ourselves, this season is pretty much over), getting the most out of this impressive collection of players will be priority number one.

I say this season is effectively over, only it’s not… On Wednesday, KC hosts North Carolina with a chance to host the Challenge Cup final next weekend. That means the Current are two (home) victories away from actually hoisting a trophy this year, and pocketing $1,000,000. Twenty years from now, the only things that will really be remembered about the 2023 NWSL season are the teams that got the hardware, and against all odds, KC is in prime contention to be one of those squads. Not that this wasn’t always going to be the case, but the Current need to put 100% of their focus on these next two Cup matches.

See you on Wednesday!

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