Headers from balls floated into the box were the downfall for Kansas City in their opening match of the NWSL Challenge Cup as they fell 2-1 to the Portland Thorns. KC NWSL was on the road to face traditional power Portland in their debut and performed well overall in their first match. Both teams had a number of players out on international duty, but Kansas City was additionally short-handed with injuries as well.
Kansas City pressed early but the Thorns grabbed the lead in the 8th minute when Raquel ‘Rocky’ Rodriguez got on the inside of a defender to head home Meghan Klingenberg’s cross from a restart. Tyler Lussi doubled Portland’s lead when she headed home Christen Westphal’s cross in the 58th.
After both of Portland’s goals, Kansas City had good chance to reply. After Rocky Rodriguez scored early, KC’s Amy Rodriguez slid a dangerous to chance to the corner forcing Adriana Franch to make the diving save.
In the 60th minute Kansas City was able to find that reply to a Thorns goal. Brittany Ratcliffe crossed into a crowded Portland box to find rookie Victoria Pickett. KC head coach had challenged Pickett at half time to get forward to support Rodriguez more and that challenge paid off. Pickett managed to get on the end of Ratcliffe’s cross and knocked towards Rodriguez. The veteran Kansas City forward flicked the ball past Franch to go in the record books as the first goal scorer KC NWSL.
Kansas City head coach Huw Williams told media after the game, “I’m disappointed that we gave two goals away from crosses because that is what we had identified as their strength and how they score most of their chances. We have worked a lot on that and clearly I did not do a good enough job in preparing the players to handle those crosses.”
“I think we were playing well but not creating a lot of clear cut chances, we’ve got to continue to improve on that side of things as well,” Williams added later.
The visitors did outshoot the Thorns 10-9 but only three of those shots found their way in on goal with five of them blocked by a stingy Portland defense.
Kansas City and Portland may be the newest rivalry after some of the fireworks late in the match. The referee had her hands full in stoppage time, handing out two yellows and three reds.
Simone Charley had received a yellow early in the second half when she slid into Abby Smith while the KC keeper was making a save. Charley earned her second yellow in the 90th on a reckless tackle that could have been a straight red but still earned the ejection.
As Portland worked to kill the clock by holding the ball in the corner, players from both sides were wrestling for control. As Kansas City gained control and headed back up the field, Portland’s Morgan Weaver and KC’s Kristen Edmonds both received straight reds.
Kansas City next faces the Chicago Red Stars on April 20th.
48’ KC V. Pickett (Yellow)
49’ POR Charley (Yellow)
90’ POR Charley (RED, 2nd Yellow)
90’+1 KC Del Fava (Yellow)
90’+4 KC Edmonds (RED)
90’+4 POR Weaver (RED)
8’ POR Rodriguez (Klingenberg)
58’ POR Lussi (Westphal)
60’ KC Rodriguez (V. Pickett)
Portland Thorns FC: Franch, Westphal, Kuikka, Hubly, Pogarch, Rodriguez, Boureille, Klingenberg (c) (Salem 73’), Everett (Weaver 67’), Charley, Lussi
Substitutes Not Used: Bixby, Nally, Hogan, Menger, Angerer, Persaud, Fitzgerald
Kansas City: Smith, Edmonds, Corsie, Del Fava, Maemone (Leach 90’+4), Pickett, Vincent, Nolf (Miramontez 85’), Vasconcelos, Rodriguez, Ratcliffe (Strom-Okimoto 63’)
Substitutes Not Used: Nick, Bowen, LaBonta, Barnhart, McCain