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Preview: KC NWSL returns home to face the Orlando Pride

Still looking for their first victory of the season, Kansas City has been slowly getting healthy and putting in better performances.

KC NWSL returns home for a pair of games
Thad Bell

Kansas City NWSL (0-4-2) vs Orlando Pride (3-0-3)

When: Wednesday, June 23 at 1:00 PM CST

Where: Legends Field | Kansas City, Kansas

How to watch: Paramount + (in the U.S.), Twitch (outside the U.S.)

Radio: ESPN Kansas City 1510AM / 94.5 FM

Kansas City NWSL faces the Orlando Pride in a midday game Wednesday. Kansas City is in the middle of brutal stretch of games, three in a week and a fourth a few days later, all against the top four teams in the standings while still looking for their first victory as a new franchise.

Manager Huw William’s squad returns home after a tough1-0 loss on Sunday at the Portland Thorns. Orlando also played Sunday, managing a 1-1 draw with NJ/NY Gotham FC. That was the second straight 1-1 draw for Orlando and are undefeated in the regular season. It did take a 90th minute cross that turned into a goal for the Pride to remain undefeated.

While Kansas City is winless, they have given each team they play a tough run for the money. They started the season with a pair of draws, (0-0 and 2-2), their last four matches have been losses (0-2, 0-1, 0-1 and 0-1), putting up stingy defenses with momentary loss of focus, a bad bounce or controversial calls. When Kansas City faced Orlando at the end of May, the Pride won on a 16th minute goal that was far from clear whether it crossed the goal line.

KC manager Huw Williams acknowledged some of the bad luck they have had with calls but would not lay the blame on those moments. “We need to control our own destiny by creating more opportunities and scoring more goals. It’s as simple as that.”

With the new club winless, Williams admits to feeling some pressure, but not from the outside. “Lots of pressure, from myself. But that’s just me. We know it is going to be an uphill challenge this season. The reality is the focus is the next thing. It is still early in the season, two wins and we are in the playoffs. It’s crazy to be too stressed about it but all the stress is coming from me. I just have that high expectation of myself, nothing but what I think is good enough will do, good enough for my performance, I have to do better.”

After playing second place Portland and now top-of-the-table Orlando with the third and fourth-place teams on deck, the schedule is not making it easy on Kansas City but that aspect does not seem to faze Williams.”I don’t know if there is enough of a difference for us to be worried about that. On paper, Portland probably has the best roster, or certainly one of them and I honestly think we were better than them in the second half. The first half they were clearly better. Not enough of a gap for us to be worried that we have the top four teams coming up.”

As Williams described, Portland was the better team in the first half but Kansas City was probably the stronger team in the second half. “My message to the players in the huddle after the game was ‘Thank You!’, because we did, or we were very close to doing exactly what we were trying to do. Our goal going into it, we had looked at all the stats, Portland had scored a ton of their goals, almost 70% of theirs in the first 25 minutes. It’s the press, the constant pressure they put on, tons of speed, it’s loud in that stadium. Our goal was to hold them for the first half and then come after them in the second half and we came close to being able to do it. We gave that goal away in the last minutes of stoppage time. “They could have scored other goals, but we came close to achieving our plan in the first half and I think we close in the second half as well.”

“The performance in Portland was a good building block for us but we can’t say that was a great result for us, we lost,” Williams added. “So it wasn’t a great result but it was a good stepping stone.”

Williams credited the players, “We are close, we get one result and we will be right in the mix because of the character of the players we have.”

Picking a lineup is getting harder and harder for Williams. Early in the season between injuries, callups and waiting for players to arrive from other countries, the gameday rosters were pretty easy to determine.

But now Williams is close to having all of his players available. Lo’eau LaBonta came back from injury to play a half, Chloe Logarzo returned from injury to play the last thirty. Canadians Desiree Scott, Victoria Pickett, and Jordyn Listro arrived from International duty, with Scott and Pickett playing portions of the game. Jéssica Silva also came back and played the second half. Scotland’s Rachel Corsie was not back yet for the Portland game but will be available versus Orlando.

Draft pick Kiki Pickett is close to coming off the injury list and could be available in the next couple games while draft pick Lucy Parker is healthy and in camp but the club is working on adding her to the roster.