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KC NWSL draw North Carolina Courage in emotional game

“We are calling this our new season, we just had our all-star break and we are undefeated. Today was a good day for us, undefeated and Ted Lasso started.” - Huw Williams

Former team mates sharing a moment after the game
Thad Bell

Kansas City NWSL and the North Carolina Courage played to a scoreless draw Friday night. Both teams were struggling with a deep injury report, international callups and emotions from a trade that saw four players swap teams and then immediately face their former team.

The Courage sent three players (Kristen Hamilton, Hailie Mace and Katelyn Rowland) to Kansas City in exchange for KC captain Amy Rodriguez. Both teams were shorthanded so their new players were called upon quickly. Hamilton started up top for Kansas City and A-Rod did the same for the Courage. Mace and Rowland were both on the bench for Kansas City with Mace subbing in for the last 26 minutes.

“Credit to those players,” KC NWSL head coach Huw Williams stated. “They joined us yesterday (the day before the match) for their first practice which meant they had to jump in a plane at the airport at 5 AM. They get to Kansas city early morning then went to the hotel for maybe 15 minutes and then they were on the practice field. We had to make a decision based on what’s right for those players. We needed them to feel comfortable with the situation and comfortable to play against their old team so they were very much a part of that conversation. Then our whole coaching staff made the decision to play the players based on their response and based on the players that were available to us today. As you can see from the injury report we had quite a few players out for us.”

“We almost scored the winning goal in the end when Hailie (Mace) and Hammy (Kristen Hamilton) almost connected in the end,” Williams continued. “What a Cinderella story that would have been for them. But let’s give credit to the Courage. Paul’s team is unbelievable, they are the best franchise in this league and most successful and we want a piece of that. We want a piece of that and we are going to see if the players that came in can help us attain what they have been able to attain over the last seven or eight years.”

With so many players out for Kansas City, a number of players were given an opportunity to play that do not normally get a lot of minutes. Kiki Pickett started her first game and Addie McCain started her second match. With Victoria Pickett also starting, that was all three draft picks on the roster getting a start and going the full 90. Goalkeeper Carly Nelson also saw her first action and kept the clean sheet for Kansas City.

Hamilton at center forward flanked by Darrian Jenkins and Michelle Vasconcelos with V. Pickett, McCain and Vincent in mid and Mallory Weber and K. Pickett bombing forward created some of the most fluid offense Kansas City has managed in their short existence.

Kansas City had the better of possession 54.5% and outshot their opponent 14 to 5. “It was a hard fought game, I felt more comfortable in how we played today. The energy was there, we were more dynamic than we have been in recent weeks,” Williams stated.

“We had a week off last week and to use a baseball term, we used that week as our All-Star break starting anew. We worked hard, obviously a lot of stress last week. Exciting times but also difficult times with Amy (Rodriguez) leaving us,” Williams explained.

Kiki Pickett earned her first start at home
Thad Bell

While Kansas City did have more chances than North Carolina, the Courage almost scored in the 29th minute when Nelson punched a ball out that fell to Taylor Smith. The North Carolina midfielder’s shot would have been a sure goal if not for Kristen Edmonds popping up in the right spot to block the shot. Edmonds was playing centerback for Kansas City in the match.

Williams had plenty of praise for his makeshift centerback after the match. “When she came here, we thought she was going to play wide up top for us. Then our next thought is she might play wide midfield for us. She’s played outside back and she’s played centerback for us now. One of the assistant coaches, when I told them earlier in the week she is going to play centerback, they asked has she played there before? I said I have no idea, but she is going to and that is the type of player she is. She is versatile, she is very good in, pick any position. She is a veteran. A professional soccer player that understands the game. We were around Becky Sauerbrun for a long time with FC Kansas City and Becky used to say that ‘If I have made a tackle, I have made a mistake somewhere.’ I am pretty sure she stole that from one of the Italian defenders but that is Kristen too. She reads the game well, she blocks when she needs to block.”

The Courage outside backs like to get forward and the plan for Kansas City was to play out wide. “We were trying to take advantage of their outside backs aggressiveness and Kristen followed that. She knocked the ball into the spaces we were looking to attack.”

While Kansas City’s offense did look more fluid, they still came up short despite some good attempts from Hamilton, Mace and Jordyn Listro and others. With a little time to gel with their new team, it seems the new additions will Kansas City turn the season around in the right direction.

Kansas City will face a tough challenge in their next match when they face the Thorns in Portland on August 1st.

NWSL Match Report

Match: Kansas City NWSL vs North Carolina Courage

Date: July 23, 2021

Venue: Legends Field, Kansas City, Kansas

Kickoff: 7:09 p.m. CT, 8:09 p.m. ET

Weather: 90 degrees, sunny

Attendance: 5,239

Discipline

55’ NC - Rodriguez (Yellow)

75’ NC - Speck (Yellow)

Lineups:

Kansas City: Nelson, Corsie© (63’ Listro), Edmonds, Weber, Pickett K., Vincent, Pickett, V., McCain, Vasconcelos (81’ Larroquette), Jenkins (63’ Mace), Hamilton

Substitutes Not Used: Rowland, Miramontez, Maemone, Del Fava, Johnson

North Carolina Courage: Murphy, Kurtz, Pickett, Caldwell, Mathias, Speck (90’ + 2’ DeBree), Smith (75’ Baisden), O’Sullivan©, Roccaro (70’ Ratcliffe), James, Rodriguez

Substitutes Not Used: Fletcher