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Preview: Kansas City Current vs Portland Thorns for the NWSL Championship

The Current and the Thorns are two deserving finalists

Hamilton and Sauerbrunn will be an interesting battle
Thad Bell

Match: Portland Thorns (10-3-9, 39 pts) vs Kansas City Current (10-6-6, 36pts)

When: Saturday, October 29 at 7:00 p.m. CT

Where: Audi Field | Washington DC

Watch: CBS (the big network) and Paramount+ in the United States – Twitch for Canada and abroad

Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB

The fifth seed Kansas City Current (10-6-6, 36 pts) face second seed Portland Thorns (10-3-9, 39 pts) in the NWSL Championship Saturday at 7:00 p.m. central time. So many storylines in this matchup with two first-year coaches, Kansas City coming from a last-place inaugural season, the troubled ownership in Portland, and many more.

Listen to the Keeping Current podcast or The Teal podcast to prepare for the match.

The road to the final for Kansas City: The Current started the regular season winless in their first five matches after a strong showing in the Challenge Cup. The Current had a number of injuries and were still finding their way forward but started a thirteen-game unbeaten streak that saw them climb from the bottom of the table to the top. While Kansas City faltered a little at the end, missing a chance to finish anywhere at the top of the table, they eventually fell to fifth place where only four points and tiebreakers separated the top five.

The fifth-place finish matched the Current up with familiar (but quite different) foe Houston Dash. The Current took the lead in the fifth minute with a Lo Labonta penalty. The Dash responded in the 21st with a goal from Sophie Schmidt. The two teams battled with Houston having the bulk of the shots but the Dash could not break through. The Current struck in the 90th + 10 (100th minute) with Kate Del Fava’s first professional goal. Kansas City celebrated the win but lost creative midfielder Claire Lavogez with and ACL injury.

The Current continued the playoffs on the road and faced first place OL Reign. Kansas City again came out strong with Alex Loera scoring in the 4th minute and Kristen Hamilton adding some insurance in the 63rd minute. Despite a tremendous amount of pressure, the Current held on for the win 2-0.

In the Current’s first playoff run, they have scored the latest goal. They have also scored the earliest goal twice in NWSL playoff history.

In both games they lost a key attacker in the first half, Lavogez with ACL and Cece Kizer for concussion protocols. The good news is it sounds like Kizer is cleared to play.

The road to the final for Portland: The Thorns came out strong and rarely faltered through the season, scoring more goals than any other NWSL side. Portland could have won the Shield but ended up in second when they drew Gotham FC in their last regular season match.

Second place was good enough for a bye as the lower seeds fought to advance to the semifinals. Expansion team San Diego Wave defeated the Chicago Red Stars to advance and face the Thorns.

Like Kansas City, the Wave scored early when Taylor Kornieck headed in Alex Morgan’s cross. Rocky Rodriguez banged one home in the 20th to level the score. It was a back-and-forth battle until Crystal Dunn scored another banger of a goal for the Thorns in the 93rd minute. Dunn had recently returned to play from maternity leave and proved her value to Portland.

Previous Meetings: The Current faced Portland twice this season and are winless in both encounters. The first match of the season for both teams saw the Thorns thrash Kansas City 3-0 in Portland. The Current were in the Challenge Cup semifinals a couple days later and “may” have rested players in preparation for that match.

The second meeting was again a bad time of schedule for Kansas City, playing their third game in seven days with the first two on the road. The Thorns were well rested and dominated the match but it took 87 minutes for Portland to score a Rodriguez goal. Despite tired legs and missing Elizabeth Ball on the backline, the Current did well to hold the Thorns to a single goal and even more amazing kept Sophia Smith off the scoreboard.

The Current are never quite out of the game though, Hailie Mace scored in the 94th when the shot took a slight deflection before going in the net.

Trivia and storylines:

  • The Kansas City Current has never beat the Thorns
  • The Current have never lost a playoff game.
  • The Current have never trailed in a playoff game.
  • The Current are the first NWSL team to go from last to the final game.
  • The Current are the lowest seed to make the final.
  • Both coaches are first year NWSL coaches and Current head coach Matt Potter is the only coach of the year nominee still coaching. The other two were eliminated by Kansas City (Laura Harvey) and Portland (Casey Stoney, the winner).
  • Portland is the only team to beat a Kansas City NWSL team in the playoffs (Thorns 3-2 FC Kansas City, August 24th, 2013).
  • After that, FC Kansas City did not lose another playoff game. They beat Portland and the Reign in 2014 and Chicago and the Reign in 2015.
  • Kansas City teams have eliminated Shield winning Reign teams coached by Laura Harvey all three times.
  • Thorns attacker Christine Sinclair was on the team that beat FC Kansas City
  • Sinclair and the Thorns then defeated AD Franch with the Western New York Flash to win the first NWSL Cup. Sinclar scored the second goal to make it 2-0 that day.
  • Franch and Sinclair were teammates with Portland when they again won the NWSL Cup in 2017.
  • Another connection is defender Becky Sauerbrunn. The USWNT captain played for FC Kansas City from 2013-2017.

Coach thoughts

When asked about how he prepares his players for this final, coach Matt Potter responded “We stay true to who we are, that’s the most important thing. Our job this week is to move our players closer to playing the game that we all love, and if we can be our best version of ourselves, and they go into that game feeling good about themselves in body, and mind, then we have an opportunity, and that’s what we’re looking forward to. So, how do we get there? We stay true to the processes and behaviors that we have been doing since we first got together.”


KC Current


Jaycie Johnson (right leg)

Sam Mewis (SEI- right leg)

Mallory Weber (SEI- right leg)

Lynn Williams (SEI- right leg)

Claire Lavogez (ACL)


Cece Kizer (concussion)


Portland Thorns

OUT: None




Kansas City Current midfielder Alex Loera — Loera has been the MVP for Kansas City in the playoffs, scoring once, assisting a goal even if the NWSL scorekeepers did not count it, and setting up a penalty. Loera has played in the back, as a defensive mid, and further up the field as well. Playing way above her rookie experience.

Thad Bell

Kansas City Current keeper AD Franch – The veteran keeper has made 11 saves in the postseason and many of those were spectacular. Franch was up for the NWSL keeper of the year and could have added a lot of votes if they were not tabulated prior to the playoffs.

Kansas City Current defender Kristen Edmonds – The veteran defender will be needed to help stop Sophia Smith again. The matchup with Smith and Rodriguez vs Edmonds and Ball and probably Merrick will be crucial for Kansas City.

Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith — Smith is the youngest player to win the NWSL MVP award and is deserving of all the praise she receives. One of the most talented players in the world and leading the line for the U.S. Women’s National team as well. Smith came in second in the Golden Boot race with fourteen goals. The 22-year-old will again be a tough challenge for Kansas City.

Other news and notes:

Claire Lavogez was injured in Houston and has already received surgery and hopefully on a quick road to recovery.

The news that Lynn Williams was in DC and in training set some hopes soaring but don’t let them get too high. Williams has been in practice for the last two or three weeks and looking better all the time but probably not ready to play just yet. She would have to be removed from the Season Ending Injury list which can be done but is not a trivial thing.

Williams can maybe get a little credit for Hamilton’s goal in Seattle. Williams encouraged Hamilton to take more shots from outside the box in practice and it paid off.