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Top of the Table Tilt: Orlando Pride at KC Current

Very little separates these top two teams as Orlando visits the Current in a match that hypes itself. Will one team earn the inside track to the Shield?

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Credit: Thad Bell

Occasionally there is a matchup that hypes itself. This would be one.

When the schedule-makers decided on July 6 as the first bout between the Orlando Pride and the Kansas City Current, there was no way to know just how big it would be. Last season, these squads finished 7th and 11th respectively and players like Barbra Banda and Temwa Chawinga were largely unknown in the US.

These teams could have easily been pitted against each other at any point over the first three-and-a-half months of the season–in fact Kansas City has already completed their whole season series with four squads (Houston, Angel City, Seattle, & Portland). But with each passing week, as these two teams have jockeyed for first place, the significance of this match has continued to grow.

Let’s review: Kansas City and Orlando are basically tied for first place in the league standings. They have identical points, records, and even goal differentials. In fact, the only reason KC is still listed as #1 is because of the third tiebreaker: total goals scored.

Both teams are on 15-game unbeaten runs to start this season, and the Current again get the slight edge there because their unbeaten run extends to the final two matches of 2023. Additionally, the two aforementioned strikers Banda and Chawinga (who, coincidentally, were both signed from teams in China), are level atop the golden boot race with 11 goals apiece this season.

These two teams feature the top two attacks in the league with 39 goals scored for KC and 30 for Orlando. The African forwards of Banda and Chawinga also get a lot of help from Brazilians as Bia and Debinha (and Lauren) roam the pitch in Missouri and Marta and Adriana (and Angelina) knock in goals in Florida.

In other words, there is very little to separate these teams. A season ago, the San Diego Wave won the NWSL Shield (for the best record) with a total of 37 points. With 11 matches still to go, both Orlando and Kansas City are at 35 points. They will both destroy last year’s marks and may make a push for the best ever league records. And one of them will likely end up as the “hard luck loser” for the Shield and potentially for the NWSL Cup itself. That push to get the inside track starts this Saturday night at CPKC Stadium.

As the other top teams have started to fade (Washington, Gotham, and Portland all dropped points last weekend), Orlando and KC have just kept pushing and their recent forms have been remarkably similar. Three matches ago the Current tied Chicago 2-2 and the Pride ended level with the Courage 0-0. Two matches ago the Current went to Portland and blasted the Thorns 4-1 and Orlando hosted Utah and dismantled the Royals 6-0. In the last match for each of these teams, KC knocked off Houston 2-0 and Orlando blanked Angel City 3-0. That’s a record of two wins and one draw with a total of nine (Orland0) and eight (KC) goals scored for each team over their last three.

What will separate these teams when they meet this weekend? It’s entirely possible that this match ends in a stalemate and both teams walk away with their unbeaten runs intact and still level on points. However, odds are that the teams come out swinging and fans will be treated to some goals.

There are some question marks for the Current as it suddenly feels like several of their attacking players are dealing with injuries. Bia is definitely out with her recent revelation that she suffered a stress fracture on Friday.

Alex Pfeiffer, who instantly provided a spark off the bench and almost netted a fantastic goal last weekend, had her time cut short with a knee injury that’s being evaluated day-to-day. Nichelle Prince showed up on the injury report vs. Houston but was just named to the Canadian Olympic team and so clearly isn’t too hurt. Bia’s absence most likely means that either Lavogez or Spaanstra slots back into the starting 11. Perhaps Hamilton even makes her way back onto the gameday roster.

For Orlando, they’re operating with a fairly clean bill of health, though former Current Morgan Gautrat has been out since June 7 with a concussion. Following this weekend’s match, the Pride will have several athletes depart for their national teams, including English goalie, Anna Moorhouse who has seven clean sheets this season to lead NWSL keepers. Meanwhile AD Franch and the Current backline just secured their 4th shutout in their 2-0 win over the Dash. Both Franch and Moorhouse may have bigger than normal challenges on Saturday as these high-powered offenses launch their attacks.

The next time these teams meet is just four (regular season) games from now, but if there is a winner this week, that team will definitely be considered the favorite going into the international break and the back half of the season. Two days after Independence Day, CPKC Stadium will be rocking (replete with fireworks following the match)–here’s to hoping there are plenty of train horns blasting through the 90 minutes.

WHEN: Saturday, July 6 at 6:30 PM (Central Time)

WHERE: CPKC Stadium in Kansas City, MO

HOW TO WATCH: 38 the Spot/Ion

Record:

KC Current: 10-5-0 (35 points, 1st place)

Orlando Pride: 10-5-0 (35 points, 2nd place–on tiebreaker)

Last Match:

KC Current: 2-0 home win to Houston Dash

Orlando Pride: 3-0 away win to Angel City FC

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KCOutsider

I’ve beat this horse before, but I just hate the NWSL’s TV fragmentation. I don’t get ION on antenna and it’s only available through expensive streaming services I otherwise have no use for. If one of those services got me most of the season, maybe I’d sign up, but not to get just a fraction of the games spread over the whole season.

I would love, love, love to watch this match but alas.

Kat

ION is available through TUBI which is a free, legal streamer. You can use it through several platforms/devices. Might that be an option for you?

https://tubitv.com/live/682634/ion

KCOutsider

Thank you, I will try that. I was unaware of that option; other searches I’d tried just brought up stuff like Amazon. I’m reluctant to keep creating new accounts but it also appears that’s not necessary with TUBI. Not quite sure how the business model works if it’s truly free?

dancey.prancy

For my family, we’ve been able to get all of the ion games through pluto tv, which you can access for free either on a web browser, or through the app. We’ve also used Tubi on our smart TV, and it’s worked well, I’ve never tried it on web or the mobile app, so I’m unsure if it works well there. You have to scroll through the channels as you would on cable. I’m unsure your situation, but I would think they’d work for you as well? It might be different in different states, though

ar_jhawk

Kat and dancey beat me to any help I was going to offer. To the larger point, YES, so much yes. I’m glad they got more money, but trying to find games is silly, especially since it was so easy last year with Paramount +. And the couple of times I’ve had to resort to NWSL + the feed has been very, very choppy. Progress though?

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