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Five Observations between the KC Current and Houston Dash

Plus extended highlights if you missed the thriller in the 2022 NWSL Playoffs.

SOCCER: JUN 18 NWSL - Chicago Red Stars at Kansas City Current Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The season rages on for the Kansas City Current. This past Sunday, they travelled to Texas to face the Houston Dash and pulled off the last minute (literally) victory on Kate Del Fava’s first career professional goal in front of the largest crowd to ever watch the Dash play.

If you’ve just come for the extended highlights, head to the bottom of the story. But there were a lot of things worth noticing this past weekend that may provide a glimpse into next weekends road trip to Seattle to take on the NWSL Shield winning OL Reign.

Did Loera Steal Desi Scott’s Job?

Team captain and Canadian international Desiree Scott had to miss the opening round of the playoffs due to a costly red card picked up in the season finale against Racing Louisville. The team had been in this pinch before with Scott out for international duty and rookie Alex Loera had filled in admirably.

Sunday was no different. Loera was involved in both goals. She had the pass to Kristen Hamilton that drew the penalty kick and she assisted Del Fava on the game winning goal (though it’s not on the stat sheet because of the slightest of deflections). There is no doubt that Loera brings much more to the attack than Scott with her progressive passing. She was third on the team in completed passes in the final third (6) behind Hailie Mace (7) and Lo’eau LaBonta (7).

Her defense was serviceable as well. She led the team in recoveries (10), which tied Mace. She also won the most tackles. Loera is definitely not the destroyer Scott is, but maybe that’s not what this team needs. She was imperfect on Sunday, but Scott is good for a howler of a pass or two as well per game.

I don’t foresee it happening, but I’d start Loera for Scott in the midfield, unless there is room for both based on the Lavogez injury.

How Injured is Claire Lavogez?

At this point, it’s unclear. The broadcast confirmed she returned to the sideline on crutches (also, why did she have to be physically carried, was there no stretcher or cart?) later on in the second half. After the game, the KC Star’s Daniel Sperry confirmed it’s a right knee injury.

Until something more official is known, I’d suspect she won’t be available. Crutches and the clear visible pain she was in aren’t promising. That leaves the team scrambling to replace her against the league’s best team (by record, I’ve got the Portland Thorns as the actual best team).

The Victoria Pickett trade made all the sense in the world when it happened, but she would be the obvious replacement if she was still around. In the game, Elyse Bennett replaced Claire and that makes some sense. Many pundits and fans are calling for all three forwards on the field at once (Hamilton, Kizer and Bennett).

However, the issue is then there is really no attacking depth. Bennett is a great burst of energy when she subs on. In the past Kizer has played underneath the forward, where Lavogez will often find herself, but again that leaves a bare bench for offensive subs and I think Kizer is best using her pace running at the defense.

The team could also choose to move Hailie Mace up into that midfield role. Izzy Rodriguez is a suitable replacement for Mace if she slides forward. I also wouldn’t rule out Loera and Scott being together in the midfield and LaBonta playing further forward. There are options, but it’ll be interesting to see which one Matt Potter goes with.

Where are the Game Changes?

Something I’ve loved about the KC Current all year is they don’t call their bench players “substitutes.” Instead, they refer to them as “game changers.” And Potter and his staff have made four to five subs in many of their games this season. That is until down the stretch (when maybe not coincidentally, they suffered).

On Sunday, Lavgoez was subbed off due to injury but then then next sub was around 90+7’ when Rodriguez came on for Addisyn Merrick. I understand wanting your best players on the pitch and they ultimately came through, but I don’t think you can be afraid to use your bench either. I will admit, it’s not obvious who to sub in. I’m fine with Rodriguez, I can’t recall her making any egregious mistakes off the top of my head. Some of the others have been shakier.

Maybe the ‘game changers’ were really there all year to give players a rest when it was needed and now there is nothing left to rest for. I suspect Potter will continue to be stingy with the subs unless a tactical change is needed (which probably means they are losing) or there is an injury.

I suppose Potter’s been hanging out with Peter Vermes since they currently share a stadium (I had to say it).

This Defense Scares Me

And not in a good way. Poor Kate Del Fava was getting torn apart by Maria Sanchez all day (what a weapon she was for Houston). This may partially be because Del Fava isn’t a natural defender and the RCB is often helping cover for her. Kristen Edmonds was giving a lot of space and not as quick to jump out and help (though Edmonds made a few huge plays herself) versus others who have played on the right this season. Kate got the last laugh by getting the game winning goal though and she’s a weapon in the attack and her work rate is tireless. Defensive mid to right wing back... who had that as the winning play?

There were other problems too. Elizabeth Ball is the team’s best defender, but she had a few really bad plays too. Her speed and athleticism, as well as other CBs and GK, bailed her out a bit. Franch had a very solid day in goal, but she is still struggling with her feet and her distribution creates some of the problems she’s then able to (usually) extinguish. Merrick had a huge save off the line, but was suspect at other times as well. It feels like a team like OL Reign will make this defense pay, so they have to tighten up.

This Ref...

It wouldn’t be an observation piece if I didn’t bag on the ref a little. I thought this ref, Elijio Arreguin, was wildly inconsistent. He was calling every ticky-tack little contact that a Current player made but letting things go when Houston did the same thing. To his credit I think he got the PK right, though I suspect his AR told him because there was a long delay between the foul and the call.

He was also stingy with yellow cards. Lavogez picked up a time wasting one early, then the second one wasn’t given out until the 88th minute and the floodgates opened with Houston getting four straight in just a few minutes. Had he given some early, maybe the game wouldn’t have been so physical down the stretch. Or maybe one of them would have been a 2nd yellow.

Ultimately Houston snuck ahead on fouls (18 to 15), but they really had to try. I know most fans will never agree with the ref, but while I’d like perfection, I’d settle for consistency.

Extended Highlights

Kansas City are back in action on Sunday when they travel to Washington to take on the OL Reign at Lumen Field for a chance to head to the NWSL Cup Finals in the other Washington, the District of Columbia. The game is at 6:30 CST.